More than one quarter of the country is in drought for the first time in two years, according to the latest data from the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor.
USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey says drought continues to expand in several areas of the country. Western Iowa and a few counties in central Iowa are considered “abnormally dry.”
“The current number, June 23rd, we see 25.45 percent of the lower 48 states in drought,” Rippey said. “That is up markedly from Memorial Day weekend. On May 26th, we saw just 18.5 percent of the country in drought, so we’ve seen a big jump of about seven percentage points in less than a month.”
Rippey says topsoil moisture numbers show that the nation’s drying trend has been continuing.
“It wasn’t too long ago – just over a year ago – that we actually saw a drought monitor era record low, just two percent of the country in drought at that time,” Rippey said. “We have seen a gradual increase that has become a little bit more pronounced in recent weeks.”
Rippey adds the percentage of the country in drought is the highest it has been since 2018. However, he says conditions could stabilize here in late June and early July across the northern half of the United States.
“It does take quite a bit of rain this time of year to just stay even because we have considerable crop use of water, as well as very rapid evaporation rates with warm weather this time of year and a high sun angle,” he said. “It’s tough to make up a lot of ground this time of year, unless rains get very heavy.”
For the country’s southwestern quadrant, Rippey says the upcoming prospects for moisture are not good.
“In fact we don’t expect much rain at all through early July from California to the southern Plains,” Rippey noted.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor data for Iowa can be found here.