According to the National Drought Monitor, minor drought improvement occurred last week and much more is needed to return soil moisture levels to normal, as 69.78% of the contiguous U.S. is still covered in drought, down from 70.15% last week. But as the winter wheat crop remains in dormancy, soil moisture deficits remain alarming, as slight drought expansion was seen in the heart of the HRW Wheat Belt.
In the South, the monitor reflects very little precip, leading to slight expansion of D3 in northeastern Oklahoma and extreme southeastern Kansas. "There was also a gentle nudging east of the D3 in north-central Texas. Cooler temperatures and continued assessment of last week’s rain led to some more 1-category improvement of the drought across western and northern Arkansas. This also spilled over into the Bootheel region of Missouri, with improvement being noted there as well," it notes.
Meanwhile across the Midwest, rains of two weeks ago led to some more carryover improvement in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois where D1 was removed from Ohio, D0 was eliminated from southern Indiana and reduced in northern counties, and D0 was removed from east-central Illinois.
In its outlook, the monitor notes that five-day forecasts show a good shot of well-above-normal warmth (6 to 12 degrees) filtering across the Southwest, the Intermountain West and the entire Rocky Mountain chain from border to border, along with the southern Plains and Gulf Coast region sharing in the warmth. "Cooler temperatures are expected in the Great Lakes region and eastern seaboard. As for precipitation during the next five days, the best chances appear to be in the Southwest centered over Arizona and along the West Coast as well as the Tennessee Valley and Mid Atlantic," it states.