Drought Moving Back Into Midwest, Some Relief for Great Plains

The U.S. Drought Monitor says dry conditions in the Plains States and the West likely won’t improve anytime soon. Brad Rippey is a USDA Meteorologist who authors the Drought Monitor, and he says drought will likely spread over Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska this summer.

“We do expect the heat to build back northward as the summer progresses and some drier than normal weather, but I think that any significant drought concerns will be west of the Mississippi and south of the northern tier states. I don’t really expect to see drought returning to North Dakota or Minnesota but as you move to the south, there is some significant risk of drought returning to states like Iowa, perhaps parts of Missouri, and then points westward would be the biggest concern. Even though the boundary of the dry, hot air and the cool, damp conditions is going to likely shift northward as the summer progresses, it probably won’t reach anywhere near as far north as what we saw last year.”

Most of the Midwest is no longer experiencing drought according to Rippey.

“If you look at the Midwestern drought map right now you see an incredibly small percentage of drought, and this is just using the definition that the U.S. Drought Monitor has for the Midwest, which is effectively the states bordering the Mississippi and then Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, so that’s the U.S. Drought Monitor definition in the Midwest. It currently shows in that area only about one percent of the Midwest experiencing drought, and all of that is in western Iowa at this point.”

Western Iowa and eastern Nebraska will be the point where drought will really take hold this summer.

“If you just break it down to Iowa, we currently are seeing seven percent of Iowa experiencing drought at this time. But if you move to the west in Nebraska, just across the border, just across the Missouri River there, 93 percent of Nebraska is currently experiencing drought. So that’s kind of your boundary line, right there along the Missouri River. Areas to the west are still dry, still experiencing drought. Areas to the East have seen significant, if not total, recovery from last year’s rainfall deficits.”

Some areas of the Great Plains may see some relief this week according to Rippey.

“We’ve got significant drought in place pretty much up and down the Great Plains, all the way from Montana to West Texas. However, there is going to be a very significant and slow-moving storm moving across the Central and Southern Great Plains, and that could drop as much as two to six inches of rainfall in some of those drought-affected areas. And it’s going to be too late for some of the winter grains, winter wheat, especially, as you get down into Texas and Oklahoma. It’s not going to help that crop, but it could prove a big boon for rangeland and pasture recovery and certainly will help any rain-fed summer crops in that region.”

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