Drought on the Move

November 11, 2015 12:00 PM
Drought on the Move

Dry conditions move into the Midwest as El Niño brings hope to the South, Southwest

California has won the lion’s share of drought headlines recently, and rightly so, but drought has been slowly building across large portions of the Midwest this fall.

As of mid-October, USDA had rated significant amounts of the Midwest as having “very short to short” topsoil moisture, including Missouri (68%), Indiana (53%), Illinois (52%) and Ohio (46%).

The so-called “drought creep” has intensified across southern Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), drought development is a concern in a few other areas.

“Based on the CPC seasonal forecasts, the greatest potential for drought development is across the northern tier of states, including the Great Lakes region and northern Plains,” says Adam Allgood, CPC forecaster.

The winter forecast brings optimism for a solid establishment of winter wheat. This takes into account the timing and amount of rainfall through the fall. 

Even so, widespread rain across the Great Plains brought winter wheat growers a mixed bag, hampering field work but bringing much-needed moisture to crops.

These weather patterns should come as little surprise to anyone who has been tracking El Niño, according to historical climatologist Evelyn Browning Garriss.

It’s been that type of year,” she says. “El Niños produce extreme weather, and this type of mid-autumn flooding happened in 80% of years with similar climate conditions.”

Has El Niño set the Southwest up for a wintertime recovery, however? Only time will tell, but climatologists are hopeful this will be the outcome as  the winter months play out. Hurricane Patricia soaked Texas in late October, bringing some relief, but additional rain is needed to completely end the drought there. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, released Oct. 15, predicts continued drought improvement or removal in large sections of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

As for the Corn Belt, farmers can expect to see “average” temperature and precipitation levels if current 
El Niño conditions continue. 

Dryness Creeps Across U.S. 
October brought moderate drought relief to Texas, but significant portions of the Midwest are seeing drier conditions. The below map was current as of Oct. 27. 

Coming Soon: First Snow of the Season

By the time you read this, the first snow might have already fallen in your area. But if not, rest assured—it’s on its way. Here’s a look at when some cities see their first winter snowfall, on average:

Bismarck, N.D., Oct. 26
Sioux Falls, S.D., Oct. 31
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nov. 2
Des Moines, Iowa, Nov. 10
Chicago, Nov. 16
Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 20
Indianapolis, Nov. 23
Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 27
Wichita, Kan., Dec. 3
Louisville, Ky., Dec. 8



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