The widest drought in decades is spreading, affecting crops across the country. More than half of the continental U.S. is now in some stage of drought (Sue Ogrocki, AP)
Washington, D.C. (WUSA - TV) - Not only has it been dangerously hot outside for people and pets this summer, but the heat and drought have caused lower crop yields for area farmers. Washingtonians have sweat through 8 days of triple digit heat this summer, which combined with below average rainfall all year, created moderate to severe drought conditions across the Mid-Atlantic Region. It's important to put this summer's record heat and dry weather into historical perspective and see how it compares to similar conditions experienced during the summers of 2010 and 2011.
The latest information from NOAA's Drought Monitor Index shows that much of the Mid-Atlantic Region is experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. Eight of the last 12 months have had below normal precipitation in the Nation's Capital. That fact, along with having 11 of the last 12 months featuring above average temperatures, created the ideal conditions for drought to develop. Rainfall in Washington, D.C. is 6.39" below normal year-to-date. The National Weather Service also points out that Washington, D.C. has seen more triple digit heat this summer than in either 2010 or 2011, which were also hotter than average.
Such conditions are very damaging to popular Mid-Atlantic crops such as corn and soybeans. Corn is also used in feed for livestock such as chickens and cattle. So reduced corn yields not only effects corn prices, but could also adversely affect meat and dairy prices as well. Limited yields of crops and agricultural products naturally lead to price increases.
Scientists say the best way to offset drought conditions without causing flooding and to help restore soil moisture and water table levels would be to see a decaying tropical system. According to the EPA, "Of the 76.5 million acres of land located within the Mid-Atlantic Region, 22 million acres or 28.7% of the land is primarily used for agricultural purposes." Rain from a tropical system, such as the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, would be enough to bring saving rainfall to such a large area. In fact, parts of the Mid-Atlantic Region have seen appreciable rainfall and some localized flash flooding from the remnants of Isaac during the Labor Day Weekend.
Some may recall that last fall, the Mid-Atlantic Region saw the influence of not one, but two tropical systems. The remnants of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee combined to bring the region appreciable rainfall late last August and early September. That was great news for the environment and reservoirs but those events have proven to be the exception rather than the rule in the last year. It will take a more large scale change in the weather pattern to bring more regular rainfall to the Mid-Atlantic Region. That is the only way to bring an end to the ongoing drought conditions currently plaguing much of the 9 News viewing area. The 9 News Weather Team will keep viewers apprised of the latest weather conditions and updates on the warm and dry weather so prevalent over the past year.