Map of the United States' worst drought bout in 50 years.

At Least Two-Thirds of U.S. in Drought, Worst in 50 Years

ICTMN Staff
7/20/12

Two-thirds of the United States is gripped in drought, the most severe bout since the 1950s, the National Climatic Data Center says in its latest report.

June’s hot, dry weather not only spawned devastating wildfires but is also hitting the cornbelt, USA Today reported, and we can expect to see that reflected in food prices later in the year.

"In the 18 primary corn-growing states, 30 percent of the crop is now in poor or very poor condition," meteorologist Rich Tinker of the Climate Prediction Center told the newspaper.

The climate center said that about 55 percent of the U.S. was under moderate, short-term drought during June, according to CNN. In December 1956, 58 percent of the country was in drought that was moderate to extreme. It was only the third time the country has been this dry in 118 years, CNN said.

It was the 14th warmest and 10th driest June on record since 1895, the climate center said. And, The New York Times reported on July 19, it is likely to get worse, with 1,297 of the counties in the United States across 29 states declared federal disaster areas. And it’s predicted to last at least through October.

On the upside, the Times reported, a 1988 drought wrought more havoc on Midwestern agriculture than this one has so far, pushing corn yields down by 22 percent as opposed to this year’s 11 percent. And economically it may not sink farmers to the same degree as in 1988 because more of them are insured, the Times said.

However, the drought’s effects are more than agricultural, as the Times noted. Forest fires have been sparked in Missouri, not a normal occurrence as it is in the western states, and water levels in reservoirs and rivers are dropping. This is leading boat operators to reduce load size, the Times said, causing more trips and increasing the cost of shipping.

Indian country is not untouched by this crisis, as indigenous leaders told members of the Senate at a July 19 hearing. Drought is just one of the many climate-change-induced ills plaguing American Indian lands and ways of life, they said, according to the Associated Press.

Also of note was a drop in Arctic sea ice, the climate center said in its statement. The Arctic in June lost more than a million square miles of sea ice, the largest loss for the month since recordkeeping began by satellite in 1979.

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