The stubborn U.S. drought that hit the Southeast and Midwest hard this summer isn’t letting up. According to the latest drought monitor, conditions have worsened slightly across the country, with “exceptional drought” conditions expanding from 38 percent of the lower-48 states to 42 percent. Those conditions could last into February.
The map below, which shows a wide swath of “extreme” and “exceptional” drought, has become a very familiar image over the last nine months:
The U.S. drought could be the most costly extreme weather event to hit the U.S. this year. In a 2012 marked by above-average wildfires in the West, record heat waves across most of the country, a massive superstorm that rocked the East Coast, and a surprise derecho that knocked out power to millions of Americans, that’s saying a lot. Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground reports that the drought could cost the economy between $75 billion to $150 billion, making it more expensive than Superstorm Sandy.
“The drought that we are currently experiencing is consistent with an observed warmer climate,” said a group of Iowa scientists in a group statement earlier this month. “Iowans are living with climate change now and it is already costing us money.”
According to a new analysis of extreme weather from the Center for American Progress, there have been at least seven extreme weather events in 2012 that have caused over $1 billion in damages. In September, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the first eight months of 2012 were the most extreme for weather ever recorded.