The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) outlook for January through March calls for above-normal temps across the South, including Oklahoma and Texas, which raises moisture needs this spring. The precip forecast calls for "equal chances" of normal, below- or above-normal precip across the Plains and Midwest for this period. As a result, the agency expects much of the current drought area outlined by the Drought Monitor to remain intact through the winter.
CPC Outlooks for January:
CPC Outlooks for January-March:
As a result of recent weather and the extended forecast, the CPC says it expects drought to persist across much of Iowa and southern Minnesota, but for some improvement to the drought in central Illinois. Drought is also expected to persist across the HRW Wheat Belt, as well as the Southwest.
On a more optimistic note, the CPC notes, "A large storm system in the seven days before Christmas should bring 1 to several inches of precipitation from the Southern High Plains northeastward through parts of the Midwest and the Northeast, setting the stage for drought improvement or removal in the scattered areas of drought across eastern Texas, eastern Missouri, central Illinois and the Northeast. In addition to effects from this system, surface moisture – whether in soils and water sources or locked up in snowpack – usually increases in these regions during January – March."
The HRW wheat crop went into dormancy in much better shape than last year, which reduces traders' concern about the crop due to drought. But if dry conditions persist this spring, stress on the crop will again be apparent. The lingering drought in areas of the western Corn Belt is also a concern, although traders still have "better-than-expected" 2013-crop yields on their minds.