The US drought got progressively worse in the past week over most of the middle of the US. For the remainder of the country, some places witnessed worsening drought conditions while other areas saw some small amount of relief.
According to the US Drought Monitor’s weekly update, “The August 7 Drought Monitor map shows 52.27 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse, compared to 52.65 percent last week; 38.48 percent in severe drought or worse, compared to 38.12 percent a week earlier; 20.18 percent in extreme drought or worse, up from 18.62 the previous week; and 3.51 percent in exceptional drought, up from 2.52 percent last week.”
So extreme and exceptional drought areas expanded slightly compared to the previous week. But the overall area affected by moderate drought or worse was essentially unchanged.
Figure 1 – Drought conditions across the US as of 7 August 2012. Exceptional drought areas in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois grew in the past week. Some relief of drought conditions occurred in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Arizona.
This drought is not expected to be significantly relieved before October. Hopefully, weather conditions in the next two months prove that prediction wrong or the effects of this drought will be further reaching and longer lasting than what people currently think. This is a good time to examine current drought-related policies and determine whether or nor they are equipped to deal with early 21st century drought conditions. If they aren’t, it seems reasonable to conclude they won’t be able to handle late 21st century drought conditions either. For example, Georgia farmers have begun irrigating crops. That practice reduces above ground streamflow, depriving aquifers the chance to recharge. Millions of people in the southeast depend on aquifer water for drinking. Which interest will win if the drought continues another 10 years? Do people get drinking water or do farmers get irrigation water? And that’s just one potential impact. The time to think and plan for this is now, before the problems grow in magnitude and complexity.