According to the National Drought Monitor, a strong upper-level ridge of high pressure continued to dominate the nation’s weather this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, bringing well above-normal temperatures to much of the country east of the Rockies. Beneath the core of the high, hot and dry weather baked the central and southern Plains to Ohio Valley. Monsoon showers and thunderstorms brought areas of rain to the West, cool fronts moving along the high’s northern edge triggered scattered showers and thunderstorms in the northern tier states, and a front skirting the high dropped beneficial rain along its eastern and southern peripheries.
The monitor states: "July 22 USDA reports indicated that 55% of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, breaking last week’s record. In the Plains and Midwest states, crop losses mounted, ranchers liquidated herds, and trees continued to drop leaves and branches. On July 25, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated 76 additional counties in six states as drought disaster areas, bringing the total for the 2012 crop year to 1369 counties across 31 states. Over two dozen large wildfires were burning by the end of the USDM week – most in the West but several in the Plains."
Conditions continued to deteriorate on the Plains and in the Midwest. While frontal showers and thunderstorms dropped locally an inch or more of rain over parts of the Dakotas, Upper Mississippi Valley, and southern Great Lakes. In the Dakotas and Minnesota it was enough to slightly trim a few of the drought areas, but the 2+ inches from southern Wisconsin to northern Indiana was able to only maintain status quo. Most other areas were not as lucky. Pasture, rangeland, and crop condition continued to deteriorate from the Colorado High Plains to the Ohio and Mid-Mississippi valleys, and from Oklahoma to the Dakotas. Temperatures reached 100 degrees F or hotter across parts of the Great Plains to Midwest every day this week, and some locations have not had significant rain for the last 30 days.
The monitor points at that recent USDA statistics indicated over 90% of the topsoil was short or very short of moisture in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with virtually all (99%) short or very short in Missouri and Illinois. "Over 80% of the pasture and rangeland was in poor or very poor condition in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. Corn, Soybean, Sorghum, and Alfalfa losses continued to mount, ponds dried up, and wells failed in several of the states. D0-D4 expanded region-wide," according to the Monitor.
In its outlook for July 25 to July 30, the monitor says weather models "show a front piercing the upper-level high early in the period, bringing scattered showers and thunderstorms to Great Plains and Midwest core drought area. Rainfall amounts may reach an inch in places, with a few locations receiving possibly 2 or more inches. The heaviest amounts from the front and low pressure system are expected to be in the Upper Great Lakes and Northeast, where locally 3 inches or more of rain may fall. Parts of the South could see an inch or more of rain as the front makes its way to the Gulf Coast. Monsoon showers could drop up to an inch of rain, total, across the Four Corners states, and frontal rains in the Northern Rockies could bring scattered light showers, but the rest of the West should be dry. Temperatures may dip from the frontal passage, but the week should average warmer than normal for most of the country."
For July 31 to August 8, the monitor expects dry weather to dominate from the West Coast to the Northern Rockies and from the Central to Southern Plains. The monitor pairs this with above-normal temps for the Southwest and from the Upper Mississippi Valley to the Ohio Valley and parts of the Southeast, and from the Mid-Atlantic states to coastal Northeast. Above-normal temperatures are expected for much of the country, especially the Rockies and Plains states, while below-normal temperatures may hug the West Coast. This would not bode well for the filling soybean crop.