The percent of continental America currently experiencing exceptional drought has reached the highest levels ever recorded over the past 12 years.
According to the latest drought report from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a total of 11.96 percent of continental America is experiencing ‘exceptional’ drought. In the 12 year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, such levels have never been seen, says Brian Fuchs, UNL assistant geoscientist and climatologist at the NDMC.
Currently, 18 percent of the country is classified as under either extreme or exceptional drought, said Fuchs, noting that much of that percentage is focused on Texas, where the entire state is experiencing drought, with three quarters of it being ‘exceptional’ drought.
This state of drought has increased rapidly over the past few weeks. Two weeks ago 64 percent of the country was drought free, followed by only 59 percent remaining drought free. Other states that are at least 85 percent abnormally dry or in drought according to the report include:
- New Mexico (100 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 48 percent exceptional)
- Louisiana (100 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 33 percent exceptional)
- Oklahoma (100 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 52 percent exceptional)
- South Carolina (97 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 16 percent extreme to exceptional)
- Georgia (95 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 68 percent extreme to exceptional)
- Arkansas (96 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 6 percent extreme to exceptional)
- Florida (89 percent abnormally dry or in drought, 20 percent extreme to exceptional)
Forecasters predict that the effects of Tropical Storm Don may provide some relief, but the degree of relief will depend on the storm’s intensity and the track and speed it takes.
“Whenever there is a lot of moisture in a short period of time, the potential exists for rapid improvement,” Fuchs said. “But while that possibility exists, it won’t necessarily mean the end of drought in those areas. It will likely only improve by one drought category for those areas not impacted by any tropical storms or where drought related impacts improve.”
The monitor uses a ranking system that begins with D0 (abnormal dryness) and escalates through D1 (moderate drought), D2 (severe drought), D3 (extreme drought) and D4 (exceptional drought). Combining numeric measures of drought and the best judgement of drought experts, a map is produced weekly by the NDMC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and incorporates review from 300 climatologists, extension agents and others across the nation.