Drought monitor

Nearly two-thirds of the nation is under at least moderate drought conditions. (U.S. Drought Monitor / August 2, 2012)

The area of drought covering nearly two-thirds of the country shrunk only slightly as drought intensified in the Midwest and Great Plains, according to the latest weekly update from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Conditions meanwhile worsened in parts of Maryland, but could improve, according to forecasts.

Sixty-three percent of the continental U.S. is in at least a moderate drought, down one percentage point from a week ago. In comparison, a year ago, 30 percent of the continental U.S. was in at least a moderate drought.

More than half of Maryland is in at least a moderate drought, about 52 percent, an area that has fluctuated over the past few months but stayed relatively stable for the most part.

Much of the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland entered what the drought monitor considers "severe" drought last week -- 29 percent of the state was in severe drought as of July 31, compared with 20 percent a week earlier and 4 percent three months ago.

Anne Arundel County, Prince George's Countyand northern Eastern Shore counties are in a moderate drought, while Howard County, Baltimore City and southern Baltimore and Harford counties are abnormally dry.

Conditions could improve in the coming months, according to a seasonal drought outlook map. The dryness in Maryland in in parts of the northeast and southwest is expected to have some improvement through Oct. 31. Conditions across the nation's midsection are expected to persist or worsen, though.

Rainfall totaled 3.27 inches in July at BWI Marshall Airport, in large part because of torrential rainstorms that struck July 19. It was the most rainfall recorded there since December but it was still 0.8 inches below normal. It was the seventh consecutive month of below-normal precipitation. 

In case you missed it, check out this story from last month on how the lack of rainfall is impacting Maryland farmers.

Have a weather question? E-mail me at sdance@baltsun.com or tweet to @MdWeather.