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Drought Keeps The Heat on Scorched Southwest

Drought Monitor reflects little improvement in hard-hit southwestern states; expansions

Published on: Jul 4, 2013

The U.S. Drought Monitor this week has little good news for scorched pasture and rangeland in the Southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Drought is also stretching into Colorado, Utah and California, with much of the Western region in drought. More than 76% of the land area across the West – with the exception of most of Montana and along the Canadian border – reflects gradients from moderate drought to exceptional drought.

About 60% of the South, which contains Texas and Oklahoma, is in some form of drought, too. But there is a silver lining – 90% was in drought at this time last year.

Drought Monitor reflects little improvement in hard-hit southwestern states; expansions
Drought Monitor reflects little improvement in hard-hit southwestern states; expansions

"We're seeing only a quarter of the nation's range and pastureland rated very poor to poor, and more than half – 51% -- good to excellent," says USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey. "Much better than where we were a year ago."

However, the remaining problem for range and pasture is across the southwest, he admits, which accounts for virtually all of the very poor to poor acreage. California is actually at the top of the list with 98% very poor to poor.

Drought Keeps The Heat on Scorched Southwest

Here's a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor map for this week (top) as a comparison to last week (bottom).

Overall, drought has collectively expanded, resulting in a boost from 43.8% to 44%. While not a big expansion, USDA meteorologist Eric Luebehusen says the trend will likely continue.

"I would expect that we will essentially hold the ground or perhaps even see a subtle increase in the drought coverage (next week)," Luebenhusen says.

Hot and dry weather in the southwest sustained the drought this week, with many locations breaking daily records for high temps. New D4 areas appeared in western Nevada and northeastern Arizona, as no rain was measured over Arizona and most of Utah and Nevada.

A saving grace for New Mexico could be the monsoon season, which has now set in. And cooler weather is on tap for the southwest for the next few days, Rippey says.