Only Dust Bowl and 1950s saw worse conditions
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —With more than a third of the U.S. experiencing historically dry conditions during June, severe to extreme drought spread across a huge slice of the country, from Nevada through Utah and Colorado eastward all the way to Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Across the country, June was the third-driest in the 118-year record, and the month ranked among the top-10 driest for 11 states, including Wyoming, which reported its driest June ever.
Nationally, more of the U.S. is experiencing drought conditions than at any time in the last half century, and by some measures, the drought is approaching Dust Bowl proportions.
According to the National Climatic Data Center, 55 percent of the U.S. is in some stage of drought, “the largest percentage since December 1956, when 58 percent … was in moderate to extreme drought,” according to the NCDC’s monthly drought update.
During the last three months, drought has expanded rapidly in Colorado, but it has not reached the magnitude of the 2002 record drought, according to the national drought monitor, in part due to the abundant moisture last year.
ABout 66 percent of the West is experiencing drough, with only the Pacific Northwest seeing above-average rain during June.
Drier-than-normal conditions prevailed from the Southwest and intermountain basin to the Central and Southern Rockies for the water year to date (October-present), as reflected in low elevation as well as high elevation (SNOTEL) precipitation, especially for the southern half of the West.
Drought conditions eased across parts of the Southeast, especially the northern half of Florida, where Tropical Storm Debby dumped record rain amounts from Tampa north to the panhandle.
As a result, the drought-affected area dropped from about 75 percent at the beginning of the month to 50 percent at the end of June. But the moisture came too late for some agricultural areas, with corn showing signs of damage in Florida and Georgia.
The hot weatherin late June contributed to poor air quality across much of the Southeast, particularly across parts of Georgia, including Atlanta, where ozone climbed to the highest level in five years, reaching concentrations considered harmful to human health.
The Southwest saw record heat, which contributed to damaging wildfires. Dry and windy conditions dominated the Southwest, allowing for severe fire weather to persist throughout the month. June is normally the driest month in the desert Southwest, and many locations in Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and western Arizona received no measurable precipitation for the month. Salt Lake City received only a trace of precipitation, the third driest June in a record dating back to 1928.
Drought conditions worsened in Hawaii, with leeward locations most affected. Lihue, Kauai received only 0.45 inches, the third-driest June on stations record that began in 1950. Kona, Hawaii received 0.21 inches, 21 percent of normal for June.
NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Drought for June 2012, published online July 2012, retrieved on July 16, 2012 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/.