Frozen Soils Limit Drought Improvement Across Midwest

March 14, 2013 02:46 AM

According to the National Drought Monitor, 36.33% of the contiguous U.S. is drought-free, which reflects minor improvement from 34.33% last week. Across the Midwest, the monitor notes that about half of the region is now drought-free, which is about a five percentage point improvement from last week. It notes that while widespread precip was seen in the Midwest, frozen soils prevented deep soil moisture recharge.


Specifically for the Midwest, the monitor notes, "Areas with above-normal rainfall over the past 30-days were targeted for improvement, but some D0 was retained due to longer term soil moisture deficits that reflect long-term drought reaching back to last summer... Despite significant rains (0.5 – 3.0 inches), only minor improvements were also pursued over Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. According to some local National Weather Service employees and state climatologists, the frozen ground (10-20 inches of frozen soils) is preventing deep soil moisture recharge. Streams and rivers rose and fell rapidly, indicting excessive runoff and lack of penetration, along with some reports of basement flooding as the water cannot go into the soil. A nearly one-category improvement across Missouri and Iowa was prompted by widespread rains (0.5 – 2.5 inches). The improvements were not a full one-category as some areas of northwest and north-central Missouri did not experience as significant of a soil moisture recovery as points farther east and south, where soils had thawed earlier in the year."

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Across the Plains, the monitor reflects drought conditions eased marginally in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, although intensified across northwest South Dakota. "Improvements were also pursued across Kansas and Oklahoma due to widespread rains (0.5 – 4.6 inches). The heaviest rains fell across southeast Oklahoma, so the most improvement was pursued there. The coverage of D3 was reduced across east-central and south-central Kansas, and western Oklahoma. Despite only modest rainfall this week, lower temperatures and a slightly wetter pattern over the past couple of months prompted a trimming of the exceptional drought over Texas County in the Oklahoma panhandle," it states. "A reduction in the covered of severe drought (D2) was included as beneficial rains (0.5 – 1.6 inches) fell on the panhandle of Texas. Over central Texas, high winds and low-relative humidity values negated any benefits from the rains that fell this week. Most of the rest of Texas experienced dry weather, prompting minor expansions of D4 over southern Texas, and severe drought over eastern portions of the state."

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In its outlook, the monitor says for March 14 through 18, moderate to heavy precipitation is forecast for the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Great Lakes, and Ohio Valley. "Outside of those regions, little to no precipitation is expected. Much colder than normal temperatures are likely to support a continuation of the frozen soil problem across the northern Great Plains through the next week, while the Rockies and southern Great Plains are expected to experience warmer than average conditions. Colder than normal conditions are likely to persist through the next 10 days from California to the northern Great Plains to the Northeast, with the most likely locations for above-normal temperatures are across the southeast. Wet conditions are likely to continue for the Great Lakes, northern Great Plains and southeast, with drier than average conditions likely across the southwest," it states.

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