Nearly half of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing some form of drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. As of Oct. 27, the data showed that 46% of the U.S. is in drought, up from 42.5% on Sept. 29. Nearly 64.5% of the U.S. is experiencing some form of dryness or drought, up from about 62% on Sept. 29. Eighteen percent of the U.S. is in extreme to exceptional drought, the majority of which is in the western part of the country.
According to the Drought Monitor, a blast of frigid Arctic air recently invaded the north-central states and was accompanied by a slow-moving storm system that produced light snow across most of the Rockies, Plains and upper Midwest.
“Although outdoor conditions were harsh, the storm and cold were welcome, as it brought a halt to the abnormal warmth and dryness that had expanded and deepened the drought in the region,” the report explained.
The precipitation halted the downward deterioration in the region, with the exception of North Dakota, providing some improvements to western and southern Montana, northwestern and northeastern Wyoming, western South Dakota, southeastern Kansas and some small areas in the D3 to D2 drought categories in central Colorado, where the snow was unusually heavy.
In the southern Plains, mixed precipitation fell in parts of New Mexico, western Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, while beneficial moderate to heavy rains fell from southwestern Oklahoma northeastward into the eastern Great Lakes region. Heavy rains also fell in the western Great Lakes region and south Florida, the report noted.
Scattered, light precipitation occurred across the Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Midwest and western portions of the Northeast, while much of the Southwest and Intermountain West remained dry, with wildfires still burning across California. In fact, the Drought Monitor said large wildfires have continued to spread and expand in California due to gusty Santa Ana winds.
As of Nov. 4, 8.6 million acres have burned in the U.S. year to date. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that 36 large fires, 17 of which are in California, have burned nearly 3.1 million acres in 10 states. While three new large wildfires were reported on Nov. 3, the center said changes in the weather have helped firefighters make progress toward containment goals for some large fires.
On Oct. 27, approximately 42% of the U.S. cattle industry was experiencing drought, up 31% from Sept. 22. Approximately 33% of the U.S. hay acreage was experiencing drought on Oct. 27, up from 24% on Sept. 22, and approximately 49% of the U.S. alfalfa hay acreage was experiencing drought, up from 38% on Sept. 22.