From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln comes a news release about the 12 year old U.S. Drought Monitor dataset, proclaiming “record worst ever” as if this has some relevance in history. Sorry, I have to call BS on this. Take June 1934 for example:
Well over half of the USA then was in moderate to severe to extreme drought.NOAA wrote in 2002 describing the summer drought then:
The most extensive national drought coverage during the past 100 years (the period of instrumental record) occurred in July 1934 when 80 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate to extreme drought.
Compare that to June 2012 where UNL claims 47 percent of the CONUS is experiencing “some level of drought”:
Color me unimpressed with the University of Nebraska’s PR fear mongering which can easily be dispelled in a few seconds of Internet search. Source: NCDC here. Now let’s see how many feckless reporters pick up this UNL press release from Eurekalert and run with it as “worst ever” without bothering to check history.
US Drought Monitor shows record-breaking expanse of drought across US
Nearly 47 percent of nation experiencing some level of drought, officials say
More of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, officials from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said today.
Analysis of the latest drought monitor data revealed that 46.84 percent of the nation’s land area is in various stages of drought, up from 42.8 percent a week ago. Previous records were 45.87 percent in drought on Aug. 26, 2003, and 45.64 percent on Sept. 10, 2002.
Looking only at the 48 contiguous states, 55.96 percent of the country’s land area is in moderate drought or worse – also the highest percentage on record in that regard, officials said. The previous highs had been 54.79 percent on Aug. 26, 2003, and 54.63 percent on Sept. 10, 2002.
“The recent heat and dryness is catching up with us on a national scale,” said Michael J. Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL. “Now, we have a larger section of the country in these lesser categories of drought than we’ve previously experienced in the history of the Drought Monitor.”
The monitor uses a ranking system that begins at D0 (abnormal dryness) and moves through D1 (moderate drought), D2 (severe drought), D3 (extreme drought) and D4 (exceptional drought).
Moderate drought’s telltale signs are some damage to crops and pastures, with streams, reservoirs or wells getting low. At the other end of the scale, exceptional drought includes widespread crop and pasture losses, as well as shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies. So far, just 8.64 percent of the country is in either extreme or exceptional drought.
“During 2002 and 2003, there were several very significant droughts taking place that had a much greater areal coverage of the more severe and extreme drought categories,” Hayes said. “Right now we are seeing pockets of more severe drought, but it is spread out over different parts of the country.
“It’s early in the season, though. The potential development is something we will be watching.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor is a joint endeavor by the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and drought observers across the country.
To examine the monitor’s current and archived national, regional and state-by-state drought maps and conditions, go to http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.