John Ackerman inspects harvested pumpkins on his farm Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 in Morton, Ill. Unlike other farmers this year, pumpkin growers have plenty to show during the nation's worst drought in decades, and the reason is pretty simple- pumpkins do well in dry weather. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
The U.S. Drought Monitor released it's latest results Wednesday and, despite storms and rain around much of the country, there is still a severe drought problem in the United States.
In fact, the Drought Monitor shows that about 60 percent of the lower 48 states are in some form of drought, with only the Northeast and a swatch along the Appalachians - and the Pacific Northwest - escaping the driest of conditions.
It's really as simple as areas that need the rain aren't getting it, while areas that are fine are getting more consistant precipitation, according to meteorologists:
"The places that are getting precipitation, like the Pacific Northwest, are not in drought, while areas that need the rainfall to end the drought aren't getting it," added Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. "I would expect the drought area to expand again" by next week since little rain is forecast in the Midwest in coming days."
Illinois fares slightly better than the worst areas - the Plains and the Southwest - but much of the state is still classified as "abnormally dry" to "severe drought."
From the report, which breaks down the conditions by region:
Midwest: Drought areas of the Midwest were largely unchanged, although drier-than-normal conditions persisted. Modest increases in D0 (Abnormal Dryness) were made in Kentucky to reflect increasingly dry conditions at 30 and 60 days. Elsewhere, areas of Moderate to Extreme Drought (D1-D3) from the upper Midwest into western portions of the Corn Belt and Great Lakes reported above-normal temperatures (locally more than 10°F above normal) and dry weather; additional increases in drought intensity and coverage are likely if precipitation does not materialize soon in these locales.
Scientists, professors and climate experts are saying that the increasing and persistant drought conditions across the U.S. are a result of climate change, which has crept back into the national political stage following the devastation wrought by superstorm Sandy, which some claim was made possible because of global warming.
Paul M. Barrett, writing in an article titled It's Global Warming, Stupid in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, says that beyond the short-sighted view that major storms like Sandy can lead to knee-jerk reactions about causality and the relationship to larger global climate implications, it's hard not to see the warning signs and effects a changing climate can have in influencing weather patterns to veer toward extremes:
Yes, yes, it's unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us--and they're right--that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.
Clarity, however, is not beyond reach. Hurricane Sandy demands it: At least 40 U.S. deaths. Economic losses expected to climb as high as $50 billion. Eight million homes without power. Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated. More than 15,000 flights grounded. Factories, stores, and hospitals shut. Lower Manhattan dark, silent, and underwater.
In Iowa, more than 130 scientists, academics and researched updated the Iowa Climate Report with findings they say are consistent with an increase in drastic weather extremes brought on by climate change conditions - increased and prolonged droughts and volatile weather being two of the key factors.
Is there any relief in sight during the colder winter months, when much of the country is more concerned with staying warm than worrying about the dry conditions in the food belts - in Kansas, the top U.S. producer of winter wheat the drought has been intensifying, with the state entirely covered by drought, and the area in the worst stage rose nearly 4 percentage points to 34.5 percent as of Tuesday - normally associated with the summer months? Not if the Drought Monitor's forecast models are right - and they've got a documented pattern of climate conditions that indicates they are:
Looking Ahead: Pacific moisture will continue to stream onshore, although locally heavy precipitation across the Northwest will give way to decreasing rain and snow totals over northern portions of the Rockies and Great Plains. Generally dry conditions are expected across the remainder of the contiguous U.S., affording most drought areas little -- if any -- relief over the next 5 to 7 days. A cold front will generate mostly light rain across the Midwest, while an influx of Gulf moisture may lead to localized showers in far southern Texas. Otherwise, dry, increasingly cool weather is expected. The CPC 6-10 day forecast for November 26-30 calls for below-normal temperatures from the Rockies to the East Coast, with warmer-than-normal conditions confined to the southwestern quarter of the nation. However, above-normal precipitation is expected to develop from the northeastern Gulf into the Northeast, and across central portions of the Rockies and High Plains. Drier-than-normal conditions are anticipated from the Southwest into Texas and Oklahoma, extending northeastward into the western Corn Belt.