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Drought levels trend near 12-month highs

Drought levels trend near 12-month highs
More than 50% of U.S. is categorized as having some severity of drought conditions

For the third week in a row, more than half of the U.S. is enveloped in drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday morning.

Nationwide, 54.69% of the country is categorized anywhere between D0 (abnormally dry) and D3 (extreme drought). That’s a hair below the past two weeks, which came in at 56.74% and 54.91%, respectively.

However, drought’s pervasiveness across the U.S. is significantly higher than it has been for the rest of 2017. The amount of the country suffering drought a month ago, for example, was 42.66%. Three months ago, it was 36.93%. And six months ago, it was 21.60%.

In fact, the last time more than 50% of the U.S. saw drought conditions was about a year ago, when 50.81% was categorized as such back on December 27, 2016.

Fortunately, about half (51%) of this drought is categorized as the least severe – abnormally dry. But the remainder is categorized between D1 (moderate drought) and D3 (severe drought).

Several areas can expect to see longer-term (6 months or more) impacts to hydrology and other areas, according to NOAA meteorologist David Miskus, who prepared the latest reports. These areas include most of southeastern Iowa, as well as a large portion of the western Dakotas and Montana, and much of the Southwest.

U.S. Drought Monitor

DRY ALL OVER: The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows the extent of dry weather across the country.

Drought conditions are dispersed unevenly throughout the country. The Midwest region is only 29.82% affected by D0-D3 drought, for example – mostly confined to Missouri, Iowa and southern Illinois. The High Plains region, in contrast, is currently 80.61% covered in D0-D3 drought. The South and Southeast regions are approximately two-thirds affected, meantime.

Some regions may not expect large changes for the time being, Miskus says.

“[The upper Midwest and High Plains], with frigid temperatures, a non-growing season, frozen soils, and a climatological dry time of year, conditions should remain locked in place,” he notes.

Looking ahead, the next 5 days could prove to be drier than normal for much of the country, Miskus says.

“The greatest precipitation [is] expected in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, offshore and along the Gulf and southern Atlantic Coasts, and in the typical snow belt locations of the Great Lakes,” he says. “Little or no precipitation is favored elsewhere.”

Expect continued frigid weather in the Midwest and Plains through at least early January, Miskus adds.

“Arctic air should be entrenched east of the Rockies, while unseasonably mild weather envelops the West,” he says.

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