The prolonged drought that descended on Texas last year has now spread across nearly half of the continental United States.
The percent of contiguous U.S. land area experiencing exceptional drought in July reached the highest level in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Nearly 20% of the contiguous United States is classified as under either extreme or exceptional drought. At the same time, about 12% of the country fell into the exceptional classification.
The monitor uses a ranking system that begins at D0 (abnormal dryness) and moves through D1 (moderate drought), D2 (severe drought), D3 (extreme drought) and D4 (exceptional drought). Currently portions of the Northeast region, which includes Pennsylvania, is ranked at D0 with a 31.59% of the region in an abnormal dryness state.
Moderate drought’s telltale signs are some damage to crops and pastures, with streams, reservoirs or wells getting low. At the other end of the scale, exceptional drought includes widespread crop and pasture losses, as well as shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies. So far, just 8.64% of the country is in either extreme or exceptional drought.