It isn't the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but serious drought
is afflicting nearly half the country after the hottest
summer since then.
It has wilted
crops and lawns, parched pastureland and forced communities
to impose water restrictions.
Moderate to extreme
drought affected more than 45 percent of the country during
each of the last three months, the National Climatic Data
Center reported yesterday.
summer - June through August - was the third-hottest on
record, following only 1936 and 1934, the agency said.
The toll of drought
and heat won't be known for some time, but Conrad Lautenbacher,
head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
estimated that as much as $2.7 trillion of the economy
is directly sensitive to weather conditions.
have kept moisture away from the Northeast and Western
states and much of the South, while parts of the upper
Midwest, particularly Minnesota and the Dakotas, received
above normal rainfall.
Among the effects:
Department has opened up conservation lands across the
country for hay harvesting or grazing to assist drought-plagued
By the end of
August, 6 million acres of mostly forest - an area roughly
the size of New Hampshire - had been consumed by flames
across the United States. That is double the average annual
damage by wildfires, with costs estimated at $1.5 billion
so far and large fires still burning in the West.
In Las Vegas,
water wasters can be fined and sent to a conservation
In New England,
dryness threatens the cranberry crop because the bogs
where the berries grow can't be flooded for harvesting.
Data Center, in Asheville, N.C., reported that the average
temperature for the 48 contiguous states this summer was
73.9 degrees Fahrenheit. That's 1.8 degrees warmer than
normal and the third hottest on record.
The report comes
just a day after the National Weather Service forecast
dry conditions continuing through the winter for much
of the country. Only the South is expected to be wetter
eased drought but led to severe flooding in southern and
central Texas in early July, with damage estimates as
high as $1 billion. Strong thunderstorms also brought
widespread flooding to western Minnesota and North Dakota
and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in crop
losses in June.
The 12 months
that ended with August were the driest on record for North
Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
They were the
second-driest 12 months in South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland,
Delaware and Wyoming.
But when grandpa
scoffs and says the current dryness is nothing compared
with the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s Depression decade,
The most widespread
drought since recordkeeping began 108 years ago was recorded
in July 1934, when 80 percent of the United States was
in moderate to extreme drought.
at the data center noted other, more severe, droughts
have occurred in the past.
Tree rings and
other historical data indicate droughts nearly as severe
as that of the 1930s many times during the past three
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