Wet Pastures In Midwest; Drought Intensifies In Southwest

April 9, 2018 03:40 PM
Moisture came to about two-thirds of the country last week, dropping heavy precipitation from the southern Great Plains northeastward into the northern Appalachians. But many areas remains in significant drought.

Moisture came to about two-thirds of the country last week, dropping heavy precipitation from the southern Great Plains northeastward into the northern Appalachians, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor Thursday. Light precipitation came to the northern halves of the Rockies and Plains, the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes region and western New England. Little to no precipitation fell in the Far West, Southwest and the southern halves of the Rockies and Plains and the western Corn Belt.

As many cattle producers round out spring calving season, muddy and cold conditions put some stress on calves, cows and producers. Late season snow showers kept many producers on edge, and required additional animal health management.


Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula received additional snow cover, removing D0 from Wisconsin. Other areas will be assessed once conditions thaw. Lingering drought in southern Iowa and north and western Missouri received light (0.5 to 1”) precipitation. With recent precipitation in mid-February and March, drought retreated. D0 was removed from southwestern Missouri. Along the northern Missouri border, D1 areas improved to D0.

High Plains

Despite the persistent above-normal precipitation this winter, it will take more moisture to change drought conditions in northeast Montana, western Dakotas and northeast Wyoming. This drought goes back 12 to 15 months, and will require 6 to 10” to equalize long-term deficits. In central and eastern North Dakota where the drought was short-term, snow totals of 1-2” in the central and 4-6” in the east added to 90-day surpluses. As conditions thaw (reports of ground barely frozen at 4” depth) infiltration should increase. In Kansas, little to no precipitation meant another week of growing deficits. D3 conditions were common, and D3 expanded northeastward.


After a very wet March and prior week in California, tranquil weather (mild and dry) enveloped the state and much of the West, with only light precipitation falling on western Washington and Oregon, northern Idaho, most of Montana, northern and eastern Wyoming, and northern Colorado. Major state reservoirs were at or above normal April 1 averages largely due to last winter’s bountiful precipitation.

Unfortunately, the Southwest continues to miss significant precipitation. The NRCS average basin (especially the Four Corners region) precipitation and SWE is running at 20-70% and 0-60% of normal, respectively. Most tools depict D2 to D4 conditions,along with deterioration in northwest Arizona; north-central Utah, southern Colorado, and a slight southern expansion in New Mexico. Outlooks are not favorable for any improvement.


Light to moderate precipitation (1-3 inches) fell on western and southern sections of the region while little or no precipitation was observed along coastal locations. Dryness (D0) or drought (D1) was limited to central Maryland southward into Virginia, and much of this area received 0.25-0.75 inches of precipitation, not enough for improvement but adequate to prevent deterioration.

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