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Warm weather threatens to extend U.S. drought

A New Year’s Eve “heat wave” melted away welcomed winter snow that had brought some drought relief to the U.S. Plains, reviving fears that harmfully warm and dry conditions will persist into 2012, U.S. climatologists said in a report issued Jan. 5.

“The return of warm, dry weather to the nation’s southern tier could be suggestive of an increasingly La Nia-driven atmospheric regime,” said the U.S. Drought Monitor report, issued weekly by a team of national, state and academic climatology experts.

Record highs for Dec. 31 were notched in Childress, Texas, where the thermometer hit 83 F, and in Topeka, Kansas, where the mercury climbed to 66 F.

Texas remained fully in the grip of extreme and “exceptional” levels of drought, with more than 67 per cent of the state considered to be suffering the worst levels of dryness.

An estimated 80 per cent of the rangeland and pastures in Texas remain in very poor to poor condition due to lack of sufficient moisture, according to an early-January report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The one-year period between Nov. 1, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2011, was the driest in the state’s history, and the months of June through August in Texas were the hottest three-month period ever reported by any state in U.S. history, according to state and federal climate experts.

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