Drought Monitor: Cooler Conditions in the Corn Belt Expected

August 25, 2011 03:17 AM

According to the National Drought Monitor, locally heavy showers provided drought relief in the nation’s mid-section and across the Atlantic Coast states. In contrast, increasingly hot, dry weather mitigated the benefits of recent rainfall on the southern Plains.


Abnormally dry conditions have persisted over the past 60 days from eastern South Dakota eastward into southern portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as adjacent portions of northern Iowa and Illinois, according to the Drought monitor. Many areas have reported less than 50 percent of normal rainfall during this timeframe, with some locales reporting less than 25 percent of normal. Consequently, D0 was expanded across most of this region, as crop conditions continued to reflect the impacts of the drier-than-normal weather, the Drought monitor reports. However, a narrow band of showers and thunderstorms sliced through the middle of the new Abnormally Dry region, dropping locally more than an inch of rain, the report continues. In Indiana, expansion of Moderate Drought (D1) was a reflection of increasing precipitation deficits over the past 60 days, with rainfall running 4 to 6 inches below seasonal norms (25-50 percent of normal). Farther south and west, moderate to heavy rain swept southeastward out of eastern Nebraska and southwestern Iowa into Missouri and northeastern Kansas, according to the Drought monitor. It continues to explain, totals exceeded 2 inches over a large area, with some locations receiving more than 5 inches. As a result, reductions in drought intensity were made in the areas of heaviest rain.

In Texas and southern Oklahoma, above-normal temperatures (up to 11°F above normal, with highs eclipsing 105°F) and sunny skies rapidly offset the benefits of early month rainfall. Consequently, after recent localized improvements, drought intensified over many of the remaining D2 and D3 areas (Severe to Extreme Drought), with the vast majority of Texas and Oklahoma back under Exceptional Drought (D4), the Drought Monitor reports. To point, pasture and range condition was rated 90 and 96 percent poor to very poor in Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, as of August 21. 180-day rainfall deficits exceeded 12 inches in southwestern Oklahoma and north-central Texas, and were locally in excess of 20 inches along the southeastern Texas coast. Farther north, scattered, mostly light showers offered little if any relief from Severe (D2) to Exceptional (D4) Drought from southern Kansas into southeastern Oklahoma, where daytime highs likewise rose well into the lower 100s (degrees F). Severe Drought (D2) was expanded eastward across southeastern Kansas to account for declining streamflow and soil moisture percentiles, as well as increasingly dry conditions out to 90 days (locally less than 50 percent of normal). Rain will be needed soon to ensure sufficient soil moisture for winter wheat planting and establishment, the Drought monitor explains.

The Drought Monitor says that in the Northern Plains, despite a mostly dry week, cooler-than-normal conditions (2 to 7°F below normal) along with recent abundant rainfall kept most of the region out of drought or Abnormal Dryness (D0). The pocket of D0 in southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming remained unchanged, the Drough monitor reports.

U.S. Drought Monitor's outlook for the next few days says while interests in the eastern U.S. will closely monitor the path and intensity of Hurricane Irene, the rest of the nation will contend with mostly dry, warmer-than-normal weather. Irene’s final track will determine how rain falls in drought areas from Georgia northward into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast; current projections suggest most of the heavy rain will be along the coast and immediate environs. Somewhat cooler conditions will prevail in the Corn Belt, while most of the Plains, Mississippi River Delta, and Southeast will experience late-summer heat. Scattered showers are possible from the Dakotas southward into Kansas and central Oklahoma, but the rain is not expected to be heavy enough to provide much – if any – drought relief. Potentially heavy monsoon showers are possible in northern New Mexico and Colorado.

The Drought Monitor's extended outlook calls for drier- and warmer-than-normal conditions across much of the nation, with the greatest likelihood of heat and dryness centered over the south-central U.S. Above-normal rainfall will be confined to the northern-most Plains, while cooler-than-normal conditions will be limited to the Pacific Coast states.



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