U.S. drought extent below 50 percent for first time in months

April 18, 2013 at 6:17 PM

LINCOLN, Neb., April 18 (UPI) -- The area of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse has fallen below 50 percent for the first time in 10 months, officials said.

The area of the lower 48 states in moderate drought or worse declined to 47.82 percent from 50.82 percent a week ago, the latest edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported.

Heavy precipitation across the Plains and the upper Midwest has helped ease the drought, scientists said.

"We've been on a steady but slow recovery path from drought since the peak in September 2012," said Mark Svoboda, University of Nebraska-Lincoln climatologist and a founding author of the Monitor.

"We've seen a much more active weather pattern lately across the midsection of the country, which has been eroding the intensity of drought as we head into spring. This is exactly what we needed."

However, he cautioned, more improvement is still needed before the hot, dry season sets in.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and about 350 drought observers across the United States.

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