Md. drought conditions persist, but less severe than Midwest

Spotty rain this year has had parts of Maryland in and out of drought conditions, and the dryness may be worsening as the nation experiences its driest year since 1956.

Anne Arundel County, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore are in moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. To the north of the Interstate 95 corridor, most of the state is considered abnormally dry.

Those zones have fluctuated through the spring and summer, with some portions of the lower Eastern Shore reaching "severe" drought conditions at times, according to the drought monitor. Other times, bouts of rainfall helped return most of the state to normal in recent months.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has the Eastern Shore and rural parts of Central Maryland under a drought watch, based on readings of stream flow, rainfall and groundwater.

According to other measures, the situation is still a concern. Much of the Delmarva Peninsula is in severe to extreme drought, according to the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index, which takes into account precipitation totals and temperature.

Rainfall across the state for the first six months of 2012 was the fifth-lowest on record, while it was the lowest on record in Delaware, according to the National Climatic Data Center's monthly State of the Climate report. At BWI Marshall Airport, about 14 inches of rain have fallen so far this year.

Farmers are still awaiting rain on the Eastern Shore as they reach a critical time in corn-growing season. Soybeans, meanwhile, are more resistant to the drought and heat, and with a later harvest, have more potential to recover.

Corn in the Midwest is meanwhile severely at risk. The USDA has been lowering its expectations of high-quality crop yields, and prices of corn have skyrocketed to near record levels, according to Reuters.

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