According to the National Drought Monitor, 76.72% of the contiguous U.S. is now covered in drought, up from 75.90% last week. The past week featured a series of low-pressure systems that moved across the northern tier of the contiguous 48 states, with their associated cold fronts moving southward to the gulf coast. These cold fronts brought some rains to portions of the contiguous 48 states, with the heaviest amounts across the northern Great Plains, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Florida. Most of the areas that are west of the Rockies remained dry this week, under the influence of a persistent upper-level ridge. Below-normal temperatures were observed for most of the central portions of the contiguous U.S.
The monitor notes that minor changes were made to the depictions across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. "Continued dry conditions prompted the expansion of drought conditions across Oklahoma and central Kansas. Across Kansas, continued dry conditions prompted the expansion of extreme drought conditions to cover the entire south-central portions of the state." The monitor explains that impacts range from agricultural (Kansas winter wheat was at 65% planted by Sunday, slightly ahead of average, however, it was only 25% emerged, which is below average) to ecological (the Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands had seen a dramatic reduction in coverage of water).
"Reports out of Nebraska had less than one-third of winter wheat fields as emerged, 12 days behind average. Across Missouri, rainfall totals ranging from 0.5-1.4 inches did little to alleviate severe and extreme (D3) drought conditions, so no changes were made," the monitor continues.
Farther north, North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota benefited from rainfall amounts that varied from 0.2 inch to 1.8 inches. This prompted some removal of severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought. Those rains did not translate eastward, and little to no rain fell across Wisconsin during the reporting period for this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor. Accordingly, severe drought conditions were expanded across central Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota.
Exceptional Drought (D4) coverage was increased over central South Dakota. "Below-normal temperatures may have helped to reduce evaporation concerns, but no precipitation fell east of the badlands. Extreme drought and severe drought were also expanded, with severe drought no covering almost every county in South Dakota," the Monitor explains.
In the Ohio Valley, the recent wet pattern enabled widespread removal of drought and dry conditions across the Ohio Valley. "Based on near-normal precipitation during the past 30, 60 and 90-day periods, burn bans being lifted, and stream flows getting closer to normal, severe drought (D2) was removed from southern Indiana. Additional improvements were made across southern Illinois, based on the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) report for this week, which reported 100% of the agricultural topsoil was in the adequate to surplus range. For subsoil, the report indicated moisture was 0% in very short and 29% short," according to the monitor.