Drought Monitor: Drought Footprint Shrinks

October 3, 2013 03:45 AM

According to the National Drought Monitor, drought covers 60.43% of the contiguous U.S., which is down from 61.94% last week. Drought expanded over the past week in the Midwest. Drought now covers 56.06% of the region, up 3 percentage points from last week. The south, on the other hand saw a decrease in its drought footprint to 73.8% compared to 77.71% of the region last week. The high plains also saw a reduction in drought over the past week, though 70.13% of the area still has some form of drought.

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The Drought Monitor reports that a series of frontal systems swept across the Northwest during the past week, producing strong winds and heavy rains. "The late September storms were more typical of November and December, and were in part fueled by the remnants of Typhoon Pabuk over the western Pacific Ocean," the monitor explains. As the Pacific system tracked into the nation’s midsection and gradually slowed, it generated 1 to 2.5 inches of precip from the Texas Panhandle northward into western Minnesota. Lighter amounts (less than 0.5 inches) fell on the remainder of the Midwest, the Drought Monitor explains. "Late in the period, the front stalled in the southern Great Plains, tapping Gulf moisture and producing scattered showers and thunderstorms in Oklahoma, Texas, and most of the Delta," it continues.

For the Midwest, eastern Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota saw enough rain to erase the D2 (severe) and trim some of the D1 (moderate drought) and D0 (abnormally dry) conditions. Isolated rains of 1.5 to 2.5 inches in northeastern Missouri and extreme western Kentucky also were enough to slightly erase some D1 and D0, respectively, the monitor reports. Lighter precip amounts in northeastern Minnesota, lower Michigan, northern Illinois, and eastern Missouri (near St. Louis) saw an increase in 60- and 90-day deficits while percentages declined enough to justify a one-category decline (D0 to D2)," the monitor explains. Elsewhere, the rains were enough to prevent further deterioration but not enough to improve conditions.

As of Sept. 29, the Drought Monitor says topsoil moisture from NASS/USDA rated short or very short increased a few points from the previous week in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois to 52%, 43% and 70%, respectively. Although Iowa slightly improved this week, the state’s topsoil moisture was still rated as 75% short or very short, the monitor points out.

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The band of moderate to heavy rain (1 to 3 inches) also led to some one-category improvements in the eastern Dakotas, central Nebraska, and northwestern Kansas.

On the Southern Plains, a slow-moving cold front that stalled in east Texas along with an inflow of western Gulf moisture from a weak disturbance resulted in widespread showers and thunderstorms with precip totals of 2 to 4 inches (locally 7 inches) in Texas and Oklahoma. The drought profile of these states remained the same or improved by a category.

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In its outlook for Oct. 3-7, the monitor notes heavy precipitation in excess of 1.5 inches (locally to 4 inches) is expected from southern Montana and Wyoming eastward into the upper Great Lakes region, with a second swath of moderate rain (0.75 to 2 inches) from the central Gulf Coast northward into the lower Great Lakes region. Lighter totals (less than 1 inch) should also fall on the Pacific Northwest coast, southern Plains, and Appalachians, the monitor adds. Mostly dry weather is forecast for the remainder of the West and along the East Coast. "Temperatures should average below normal in the West and above normal in the East, with the largest negative departures in the north-central Rockies and High Plains and positive anomalies in the mid-Atlantic," the monitor explains.

Looking a bit farther ahead to Oct. 8-12, the monitor says the odds favor above-normal precipitation for the Atlantic Coast states and the middle and upper Mississippi Valley. In contrast, the likelihood for subnormal precipitation is greatest in the Far West, Southwest, and Rio Grande Valley, the monitor continues. Above-normal temperature probabilities are highest in the eastern third of the nation, with the best subnormal temperature odds from the Rockies to the Great Plains.


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