After going through a dry month in June, soil moisture deficits are being logged across a number of areas in the central U.S. The worst of this situation, of course, is in the Northern Plains, where drought has developed so quickly that the term "flash drought" likely applies. After all, there was no drought indicated in the Northern Plains as recently as early May.
However, when looked at in an aggregate view, the recent dryness being experienced is not as bad as in some recent occurrences. For example, 2017 dryness compared with 2012 is not even close to as extreme.
In July 2012, the long-term Palmer Drought Severity Index placed severe to extreme drought over almost the entire western U.S. except for the Pacific Northwest; almost the entire Plains; and most of the Midwest, Delta and Southeast. That's how the situation shaped up just five years ago.
In contrast, early July 2017 has a much different appearance in the Palmer Drought Index computing. The Northern Plains definitely has moderate to extreme drought in effect, and will likely see that issue carry through the remainder of the summer. Drought is also noted in the southwestern U.S., and in portion of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic area. But, in the Midwest, the Palmer Drought Index shows several locations with moist to even extremely moist conditions -- especially in the Great Lakes area. The Southern Plains has some sectors, highlighted by southern Kansas, with similar assessments.
In summary, this indicator of drought conditions has a more favorable presentation for the 2017 crop season than the historic dryness of 2012. Are conditions that we have now the toughest in the years following that big drought and heat season? Yes, they are. But, overall, the scenario at this point in the season is still a ways from matching that 2012 event.
Here's where the upcoming four weeks will be very important, though -- because in 2010 and 2011, crops went downhill from July on -- especially in 2011. So, there is still a lot of potential either way for crops over the next six-to-eight weeks.
Bryce Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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