More than half of the continental United States this summer is experiencing moderate to extreme drought, according to reports released by the National Weather Service.
In June 2012, 55.79 percent of the land in the lower 48 U.S. states were in drought, the most extensive area in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The previous drought records occurred on Aug. 26, 2003, when 54.79 percent of the lower 48 were in drought and on Sept 10, 2002, when drought covered 54.63 percent of this area.
Droughts, compared to other weather-related events, have historically had the greatest impact on the largest number of people, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The nation's worst drought on record occurred in the 1930s during the so-called "Dust Bowl" years. The drought affected almost the entire Plains and covered more than 60 percent of the country at its peak in July 1934. It caused the migration of millions of people from the Plains to other parts of the country.
As of mid-July, the government has declared one-third of the nation’s counties federal disaster areas as a result of the drought. And there's no relief in sight. The drought is expected to persist and even intensify in some areas, as temperatures are likely to remain above normal.