Saturday, November 12, 2011

USA's drought costs exceed $10 billion

Doyle Rice in USA Today: The nation's costliest natural disaster of the year — the drought across the South that's already cost the USA $10 billion — appears to be expanding its reach. The dry conditions have spread now into parts of the Southeast and Midwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website that tracks drought across the country.

More than 33% of the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) is now in a drought, the nation's highest percentage in almost four years. "This is the most drought for the contiguous U.S. since Jan. 22, 2008," reports Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Fuchs says drought now extends all the way from western Arizona to central North Carolina, a distance of more than 2,000 miles. From north to south in the central USA, the drought reaches from southern Minnesota to South Texas.

While Fuchs says some slight improvement has occurred the past few weeks in Texas and Oklahoma due to recent rainfall, little relief is in sight for the winter. "In a broad area across the Southeast and along the southern tier of states, drought is forecast to persist and expand" over the next three months, the Climate Prediction Center announced last week....

This panoramic view of east-central Texas on September 6, 2011, highlights numerous smoke plumes caused by wildfires burning across the state. From NASA

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