Is 2012 A "Drought Hall of Fame" Contender?
A Ball State meteorologist says this drought may rival those of the Dust Bowl years.
Published: Jul 26, 2012
As crop conditions continue on a downhill slide, some meteorologists are skipping the comparisons to the 1988 drought and jumping right into Dust Bowl data.
Meteorologist David Call of Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., said the Dust Bowl is a good comparison to 2012, as 1988's drought wasn't as widespread.
"Every state in the continental U.S. has some portion of it in some state of abnormally dry or drought level," Call said. "It's not uncommon for there to be dry areas, but this drought is a stretch so far."
He said that the two major droughts in the '30s (1934 and 1936), affected nearly the entire country, much like the drought of 2012. But, he said, they were a little different.
A Ball State meteorologist says this drought may rival those of the Dust Bowl years."I suppose one could argue that 1934 was drier while 1936 was hotter, but that's like trying to compare Peyton Manning and Tom Brady – either drought would easily make the first round "Drought Hall of Fame" ballot," Call said.
Anyway, it's bad. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor data, more than 55% of the contiguous U.S. is in moderate or worse drought conditions, a trend that is expected to continue.
And, that limited rainfall coupled with record heat means crops are continuing to suffer. The latest USDA crop condition reports show 21% of the nation's corn crop in very poor condition and only 3% rated as excellent.
While it is hard to tell exactly when drought worries started to intensify, this spring ushered in a host of record breaking temperatures.
"This whole drought started very early," Call said. "In the month of June, we set thousands of temperature records across the country. Whatever state you were in, you were probably setting records."
While record temperatures caught our attention, it was the lack of rain that really made us watch.
Call said Palmer Drought Indices are one way meteorologists assess rainfall and drought conditions. He said that this measure compares rainfall by rank, and explained that only about 10% of years were drier than this year in all but a dozen states, roughly. Indiana's rank is 3%, meaning it has only experienced drought conditions worse than this year about four times.
"For most states, the Palmer Drought Index, which goes back to 1895, ranks this drought among the top 10 or so years—so far," Call said.
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