When June ended, Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana had concluded their driest six-month period on record, with rainfall eight inches short of average in Texas and nearly a foot short in Louisiana, according to the U.S. Climactic Data Center. The three-month temperature averages across 10 states in the region ranked in the top 10 on record, while Texas set a new record for high heat during the stretch.
Exceptional drought, the driest designation of the U.S. Drought Monitor, persists throughout much of those three states, and into neighboring Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Pockets of exceptional drought also persist in Georgia, and a band of extreme drought connects them. Nearly all the pasture in Texas is rated in poor condition as a result of the drought, and farmers in Texas have lost 30% or more of their crops, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Most of those statistics are based on assessments through June. July has been no friendlier, with continued 100-plus degree heat across much of the region. Another day of 100-plus degree heat is forecast for today, according to the National Weather Service.
This NASA satellite image shows how plants have responded to drought in Texas and neighboring states, by comparing plant growth from June 26 to July 11, 2011, with average conditions for that period. The widespread brown color indicates what you'd expect for such extreme conditions: Plants aren't growing. NASA had another word for the conditions: "Disaster."
High heat and drought in this part of the country are consistent with climate change predictions. Some scientists predict these conditions are closer to a "new normal" than a freak extreme.
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