Drought in Western Corn Belt, Plains Likely to Persist

10:06AM Feb 22, 2013
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Despite large snow dumps this week, dry conditions in the western Corn Belt and the Plains states are likely to continue this spring and summer, says Kyle Tapley, senior agricultural meteorologist for MDA Weather Services.

Tapley spoke at the Intl FCStone Agricultural and Economic Outlook Meeting in Las Vegas this week.

"Once drought is in place, it can be self-sustaining and perpetuating," he says. "We’ve been in a very persistent pattern through the winter to date."

Tapley also looked back at weather records over the last 60 years, looking at droughts in 1953, 1955, 1970, 1983 and 1988. Only the 1988 drought was similar in scale and intensity, but all of those droughts tended to linger into the next year. The only saving grace is that dryness was not as extreme in the following summer, he says.

Existing weather patterns will need a strong external jolt to alter, he says. For example, Hurricane Isaac brought heavy rains to the Mississippi delta and southern Midwest last year, and it appears those regions are recovering. A similar event is needed for the western Corn Belt.

El Nino and La Nina ocean temperatures are also in a neutral phase this year, so they are not expected to be a big driver of weather patterns and rain events.