When the Rains Stop

A historic drought has already wilted U.S. corn crops, and the damage has only begun

Danny Wilcox Frazier for TIME

A historic drought has already wilted U.S. corn crops, and the damage has only begun

Meteorologists call drought the "creeping disaster" because, unlike hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts normally unfold in slow motion, day after dry day. The "flash drought" of 2012, though, is proving to be anything but a slow burn. From the middle of June to the middle of July, drought gobbled up cropland at an alarming rate, pushing the amount of land under severe drought from 17% to 39% of the continental U.S. Bone-dry weather combined with high temperatures--2012 is on track to become the hottest year on record--sucked the moisture from the air and the soil, toasting America's breadbasket. More than half the...

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