Record temperatures continue to be set across the United States as considerable heat covers much of the country. The warmest twelve month period ever recorded is now officially July 2011 through June 2012. This surpassed the average temperature reported last month for the twelve month period between June 2011 and May 2012. The trend is expected to continue as temperatures are predicted to remain above average for the foreseeable future.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released their monthly update. Overall, the beginning of 2012, January through June, is officially the warmest first half of the year ever recorded for the contiguous U.S.. The average temperature for the time period was found to be 52.9 degrees Fahrenheit. This was 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average. This data follows previous reports that 2012 also has the warmest spring on record as well.
This ongoing theme for 2012 in the contiguous U.S. has led to a number of issues, largely drought and wildfires. The month of June ranked 14th warmest on record but 10th driest on record for the month of June. But the most telling statistic was that fifty-five percent of the contiguous U.S. was considered under drought conditions by the end of June.
Sixty-four percent of the land is considered under moderate to extreme drought conditions, however, a total of more than eighty percent is considered drier than average. This figure would likely be higher had the Pacific Northwest and Florida not experienced more rainfall than the rest of the country. Overall, the ongoing drought is currently considered the worst since 1956.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, mid-July saw more than 1,000 counties in the U.S. determined to be disaster areas based on drought conditions alone. However, in recent weeks the USDA has continued to add counties to the natural disaster listing and now the total stands at 1,584 counties in thirty-two states (50.3 percent). The majority of the counties currently on the USDA listing are due to drought, more than ninety percent in total.
At least thirty percent of corn planted in the most productive states are in poor condition, with many farmers having to remove crops to conserve water for others. Ratings for major crops continue to plummet, as only twenty-four percent of corn is currently rated by the USDA as good or excellent. Soybeans are also doing poorly, with only twenty-nine percent rated good or excellent. Such conditions are likely to drive food prices up 3.5 to 4 percent between now and 2013.
Currently ethanol is still being produced at the EPA required rate despite the corn crop concerns. However, this may change as recently farmers have pressured the EPA to change it due to the drought. In addition, ranchers are now allowed to graze livestock on protected areas, a total of 3.8 million acres have been opened for them due to the drought. Many of the areas include wetlands which brings up possible concerns of pollution and destruction to these lands due to the livestock.