The weekly drought monitor released Thursday tracked conditions from Aug. 27 through Tuesday morning. It shows little change nationwide: Nearly 62 percent of the contiguous states are in drought, about the same as the week before.
But the portion of the U.S. corn production area in drought increased to 52 percent from 45 percent, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist at the USDA. Soybeans in drought also increased in the last week to 42 percent from 38 percent.
Hay in drought was unchanged at 39 percent, but cattle in drought increased one percentage point to 53 percent.
Out of the 97.4 million acres of corn planted this year, about 50 million acres — nearly 80,000 square miles — are in drought. About 77.2 million acres of soybeans have been planted and nearly 32 million acres, or more than 50,000 square miles, are affected by drought, Rippey said.
The extreme heat in the Midwest and near record-low August rainfall combined to expand drought conditions from the eastern Dakotas southeastward into western Illinois.
Iowa recorded its hottest week since July 2012, with highs topping 104 degrees in Des Moines and Fort Madison on Aug. 30. Statewide, August rainfall ranked seventh driest in 141 years of records, and followed the ninth driest July.
Many Iowa locations also set new August records for dryness. Keokuk and Mount Pleasant had no precipitation, Burlington and Fort Madison had just a trace.
Small areas of severe drought also showed up in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin this week. Drought also expanded or intensified in Mississippi and Oklahoma. No changes were made in Nebraska and Kansas, except for a small improvement in extreme sections of southeast Nebraska, northeast Kansas, southwest Iowa, and northwest Missouri, where some rain fell.
The drought monitor is produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the USDA and about 350 drought observers across the country. It rates the level of drought on a scale from abnormally dry to moderate drought, severe drought, extreme drought, and exceptional drought.