U.S. Drought Monitor, 5 February 2013. Harsh drought conditions expanded in key U.S. farm states in the nation's midsection over the previous week. Graphic: Michael Brewer / L. Love-Brotak / NOAA / NESDIS / NCDC

By Carey Gillam; editing by Andrew Hay and Peter Galloway
7 February 2013

Kansas City (Reuters) – Harsh drought conditions expanded in key U.S. farm states in the nation's midsection over the last week, climate experts said on Thursday.

There has been some recent precipitation through the Plains region but the frozen ground did not allow for much moisture to penetrate into parched soils, according to the Drought Monitor report, a weekly analysis of drought conditions put together by a consortium of state and federal climate experts.

The Plains states are key crop production areas, particularly for hard red winter wheat, an important bread-making crop. They are also critical areas for cattle and other livestock production.    

In Kansas, the level of exceptional drought - considered the worst level - expanded to 36.16 percent of the state, up from 36.14 percent a week earlier, while the second-worst level of drought, dubbed extreme, expanded to 79.54 percent of the state, up from 79.53 percent, the Drought Monitor said. Kansas encompasses roughly 52.4 million acres, meaning that even small adjustments in drought levels can affect thousands of acres.

In Nebraska, roughly 77.47 percent of that state's 49.5 million acres is suffering from exceptional drought, up from 77.46 percent, and 96.28 percent of the state is still suffering from extreme drought, unchanged from the previous week, the Drought Monitor said.   

Colorado saw exceptional drought expand to 24.92 percent of the state, up from 13.50 percent the prior week.

Thursday's Drought Monitor report showed severe drought still gripping 87.25 percent of the High Plains, unchanged from the previous week. Fully 100 percent of the land area in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma remained engulfed in severe drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor.

Jim Angel, state climatologist for Illinois, told Reuters Thursday […] there was great concern for the Plains.

"It's a lot harder for them to shake off drought," Angel said. […]

"It's not overly encouraging," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the University of Nebraska's Drought Mitigation Center. [more]

Drought expands in key U.S. farm states

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