Drought 2007: What the Maps Tell Us
Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio, in drought
Going on the assumption that the surest way to end a drought is to write a story about it, the Yonder today would like to confirm what too many readers already know: It hasn't rained nearly enough in much of the country.
The picture here from Ohio shows the piddling bit of water left in what is normally an overflowing pool. The tiny figure in the photo would normally be under a rushing waterfall. Maps on the next page show the extent of the drought. But what they don't reveal is how hard conditions have become. In South Dakota last week, 3,000 head of cattle died from extreme heat and three-quarters of the state's topsoil is short of moisture.
Twenty-four counties in Minnesota have been declared federal disaster areas because of the drought. Another 32 counties are dry enough to qualify for special loans. (What a farmer who is watching his crop wither is supposed to do with a loan is not at all clear. "It doesn't do any good," U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson said of the loan program. "When people get in a disaster, they don't need low-interest loans.")
In Ohio, the drought is on the verge of doing in this year's corn and soybean crop. "We are at the edge of the cliff ready to fall off, and some have already fallen off. I would say probably five or ten percent of the soybean crop will not be harvested, or if it is harvested, yields will be very low," Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist told Agriculture Online. "The most important part of crop production is in August and September, and to not have the necessary water just to keep that plant alive, is going to impact production. What growers are facing right now does not paint a pretty picture."
Texas is one place that is not in drought. The first seven months of '07 were the wettest on record.
Maps tell the drought story better than words, however. First, this is where we are, the map of drought severity put out weekly by the federal government. Green is good. Dark brown is dry:
How much rain would have to fall to end the drought? This July map shows the rainfall amounts it would take to reverse the drought within the next three months.
Finally, what's likely to happen? This map is the latest (released August 2) federal prediction for what will happen between now and October. Climate experts predict that the drought will continue or intensify across the areas marked in brown.