Counting losses from drought

KANSAS CITY — Hot and dry conditions continued to plague large parts of the US Plains and southern states as the worst US drought in over five decades expanded its grip on some key farming states.

At least “moderate” levels of drought have now enveloped more than 64 per cent of the contiguous United States, up from 63.39 per cent the week before, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists.

“This is the greatest extent of drought we’ve seen all summer,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The drought is easing in the east, but we’re seeing more of it expand in the Central Plains, Rockies and Dakotas.”

The Drought Monitor’s measurement of the worst level of drought, “exceptional”, expanded to 6.23 per cent of the land area in the contiguous US for the week ended September 11, up from 6.14 per cent in the prior week.

The drought has been exacerbated by long stretches of high temperatures.

“That has been the kicker all summer, how hot it has been,” said Fuchs.

Conditions in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa grew more dire, according to the Drought Monitor.

Kansas, in particular, remained almost entirely parched, with more than 60 per cent of the state in exceptional drought and more than 88 per cent in extreme drought.

The climatologists noted “widespread expansion” of severe drought in western North Dakota and said the per cent of normal precipitation has held below 50 per cent throughout most of the Northern Plains over the last month. (Reuters)

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