The Drought Monitor is produced jointly by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The map uses five levels of classification: abnormally dry (D0), showing areas that may be coming into or out of a drought, and four levels of drought: moderate (D1), severe (D2), extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4).
Areas in a drought can be determined by comparing observed precipitation to the normal (climatological) data, comparing soil moisture and crop conditions, how much moisture is contained in snow, the level or flow rate of water, water in reservoirs, or groundwater levels.
Other than complaining about our damaged yards there is a more significant reason for monitoring drought conditions. The USDA uses the drought monitor to trigger disaster declarations and eligibility for low-interest loans. The Farm Service Agency uses it to help determine eligibility for their Livestock Forage Program, and the Internal Revenue Service uses it for tax deferral on forced livestock sales due to drought.
Currently, more than half of the Miami Valley is considered to be abnormally dry to moderate drought. Effects may include crop growth being stunted, small brush fires, to bad business for landscapers. Due to the lack of rain Southwest Ohio has experienced for several weeks, it’s possible the moderate drought conditions may expand when the next monitor is issued in just a few short days.