With every dry day that passes in West Michigan, our drought conditions worsen. Last Thursday, much of our area was "upgraded" by the U.S. Drought Monitor from "abnormally dry" to "moderate drought." Just to our south, much of northern Indiana is in worse shape, categorized by the Monitor as being in "extreme drought." The heat is also making news in northern Indiana, as it is here in West Michigan. For example, today Fort Wayne recorded a high temperature in the 90s for the 20th straight day! That's a record.
The heat in West Michigan will be sweltering Tuesday. It's likely that we'll add a couple of degrees to Monday's highs, which were in the middle and upper 90s. The result: we could have our fifth 100 degree day of the summer. No matter whether we hit triple digits, we'll certainly be in the 90s, for the 24th time this year. The highest number of 90 degree days this millenium is 27, set back in 2005, and with half the summer left to go, chances are we'll pass that mark by.
On the drought front, a report issued today by the National Climatic Data Center, the federal agency that produces the U.S. Drought Monitor, says more than half of the contiguous United States is currently experiencing drought in some form. The 48-states haven't been so widely covered by a drought designation since the 1950s. Some experts are comparing today's situation to the devistatingly dry "Dust Bowl" years in the 1930s.
Closer to home, the latest Monitor shows nearly 85-percent of the Midwest (identified as nine states: Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio) under some kind of drought designation, from "abnormally dry" on the least affected side, to "exceptional drought," the most severe designation of drought. Amazingly, the situation in the Midwest last year at this time was the opposite of what is happening now. According to the Monitor, on this date last year, more than 97-percent of the Midwest had seen plenty of rain. Less than three percent of the Midwest was "abnormally dry," the only drought designation that could be found in the region.
In fact, you don't have to go back twelve months to find a time when the Midwest region had seen sufficient precipitation. The Monitor shows that as recently as mid-April -- just three months ago -- more than 60-percent of the region was in good shape. Today, more than 60-percent is experiencing some type of drought. My, how things have changed!