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'Just the Beginning': US Drought Kills Hundreds of Thousands of Trees

Persistent lack of water continues to ravage US, threatening trees and crops nationwide, with no end in sight

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The historic drought of 2012, which continues to ravage over half of the contiguous US, has a new legacy: the death of hundreds of thousands of trees across the Midwest.

An Iowa tree waits for rain. (Photo: iowa_spirit_walker via Flickr) "This is just beginning," said Purdue University plant pathologist Janna Beckerman. "I suspect we'll see trees still dying for the next two or three years." According to Beckerman, "Indiana's white cedar and Florida cypress trees began dying in late summer [...] and Alberta and Colorado blue spruce are succumbing now."

The latest Drought Monitor shows that 58% of the contiguous US remains in moderate or greater drought, with this past January month considered "the worst" since the Monitor began 13 years ago, said climatologist Mark Svoboda.

“We are going to be talking about drought for much of 2013 as little relief is being projected,” seconded Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska. “A lot of areas are going to go into this spring planting season with a deficit. We are seeing it already with winter wheat, and it is going to continue unless we see changes.”