According to the National Drought Monitor, marginal drought improvement was seen for the nation on whole, with 24.10% of the contiguous U.S. drought free, less than a percentage-point improvement from last week. Slight improvement was seen across the Midwest and South, while drought intensified across the High Plains.
The monitor reflects very dry weather that continues across the northern Great Plains, prompting extensive 1-category downgrades across a large portion of North Dakota. "Severe drought (D2) was expanded to include most of the eastern half of the state, and D2 was also expanded eastward across the Canadian border counties as far east as Rolette County," it states. "In the heart of the state, D0 conditions were downgraded to D1. In South Dakota, exceptional drought (D4) was expanded throughout the southwestern portion of the state, and severe drought (D2) was expanded throughout the northwestern portion of the state in keeping with the prevailing dryness. These expansions also pushed D4 and D2 conditions into eastern Wyoming and extreme southeastern Montana, respectively."
Meanwhile, beneficial, widespread rains were seen across to the Southern Plains. "Many locations in Texas and in the southern half of Oklahoma received heavy precipitation (2 inches or greater). As a result, extensive 1-category upgrades were made to the regional drought depiction," it states. "Significant runoff occurred for the first time in over two years in west-central areas of Texas. In Oklahoma, 1-category improvements were made across much of the state, including portions of the Panhandle, while D4 conditions were expanded eastward across northern Oklahoma where little rain fell this past week. Farther north in Kansas, a one-category downgrade from D2 to D3 conditions was made across northeastern and north-central sections of the state due to lack of rain and surface water shortages. However, in eastern areas of Kansas, one-category improvements were rendered to the depiction due to recent rains and improved stream flows."
While little precip was seen across the western Corn Belt the last seven days, heavy rain (2 inches or greater) fell over northern and eastern Ohio, southern Indiana, and much of Kentucky. "Near to above-normal stream flows contributed to 1-category upgrades across portions of the region," it states. "In Ohio, D2 conditions were removed from southwestern parts of the state, and trimmed back in south-central portions of the state."
In its near-term, five-day outlook, the monitor states: "A fairly dry period is in store for much of the lower 48 states. Exceptions would include the eastern margin of the Eastern CONUS drought area, from Arkansas northeast to New York, where 1-2 inches of rain is expected, and also in North Dakota and far northern Minnesota, where 1-2 inches of rain is predicted."