Corn Belt smacks of Dust Bowl era

7:16 PM, Jul 16, 2012   |    comments
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With more intense heat on the way, the USA is in the middle of its worst drought in more than 55 years, data released Monday by the National Climatic Data Center show.

How bad is it? Based on one index, 55% of the contiguous USA is in a drought, "the largest percentage since December 1956, when 58 percent ... was in moderate to extreme drought," the climate center noted.

This is the sixth-highest percentage on record, the center reports, based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index. That gauge has been used to track drought data since 1895, long before the creation of the U.S. Drought Monitor in 2000.

As a result, the nation's corn and soybean belt has been especially hard hit over the past three months, the report said. "Topsoil has dried out and crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years," the report said. Only three droughts in the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s (1934, 1939 and 1931) and two droughts in the 1950s (1954 and 1956) were worse.

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report says 80% of the nation is either in a drought or considered "abnormally dry." Don't expect much help from Mother Nature.

Although some rain has fallen on part of the Corn Belt recently, not enough fell on a broad area to make much of a difference in long-term crop yields, AccuWeather reports. Little relief is expected in the short term in the nation's parched midsection, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson says.

The forecasting company is predicting ongoing heat and drought in parts of southern Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, southern Wisconsin and southwestern Minnesota. During most days this week, from southern Illinois, south to Arkansas, west to Nebraska and Kansas, high temperatures will range between a blistering 95 and 100 degrees.

Farther to the north and east, high temperatures will range between 90 and 95 degrees into Wednesday with some relief from the heat later in the week. Spotty downpours will continue in part of the area.

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

USA TODAY

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