Drought Worst Since 1956, Temperatures Hottest Since 1895
The National Climatic Data Center describes the current drought as the worst since 1956, and private crop insurers and the federal government may see significant losses because of the dry conditions in large areas of the Midwest since the beginning of the 2012 growing season. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Team expects drought conditions to persist through the end of September, lowering crop yields and increasing payouts for crop insurance.
Despite the severe drought that is destroying crops across the midsection of the U.S., many farmers will not face significant declines in income because of crop insurance and record prices for corn and soybeans. One of the major changes expanded the crop insurance program so that nearly all farmers in the Corn Belt are now covered. The most common crop insurance covers changes in price as well as crop losses, so the current conditions could lead to $20 billion in claims payouts by the federal government and insurance companies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that July was the hottest month in the lower 48 states since record keeping began in 1895. The month’s average temperature of 77.6 degrees was 3.3 degrees higher than the average for the twentieth century. NOAA data show that the previous record was 77.4 degrees in July 1936. According to the report, much of the U.S. had temperatures that were higher than average this July, with the largest divergence from the twentieth century average recorded across most of the Plains, the Midwest and along the Eastern Seaboard. The 12 month period that ended in July was also the warmest on record in the U.S. The agency’s climatologists said that the drought conditions in approximately 63 percent of the U.S. were a factor in the record high temperatures. Jake Crouch, a climatologist at the agency’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, explained that dry soils cause daytime temperatures to be higher.