Drought still dominates Corn Belt

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The drought in the nation’s heartland is nearing its fourth month and conditions continue to deteriorate. The weekly Drought Monitor report shows that 64 percent of the contiguous United States is in moderate to exceptional drought, the highest percentage since the Drought Monitor's inception in 2000.

It is slightly above last week’s report of 63 percent and eight percentage points higher than conditions in early July.

High Plains struggles
The remnants of Hurricane Isaac brought much-needed moisture to areas in the Midwest, but the soaking rains stayed mainly to the east, leaving most areas on the High Plains dry and desperate for relief. Last week, 24 percent of the region was considered in exceptional drought.

This week, data show that a quarter of the High Plains are now rated in exceptional drought. One-hundred percent of the region is in some sort of dryness or drought:

Percentage of Drought Intensity on the High Plains

 

None

D0-D4

D1-D4

D2-D4

D3-D4

D4

This week

0

100

95.6

82.77

60.66

25.10

Last week

0.94

99.06

92.43

81.84

61.01

24.54

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South Dakota, after having reported exceptional drought for the first time since August 2006, saw little change this week.  Half of the state is in now extreme to exceptional drought. Read more here.

Midwest hope falters
Improvements were noted from post-Hurricane Isaac rain for some Midwestern states, primarily  Missouri and Illinois where extreme to exceptional drought conditions dropped by 66 and 63 percent respectively.  Even so, this week conditions were steady and showed few signs of improvement:

Percentage of Drought Intensity in the Midwest

 

None

D0-D4

D1-D4

D2-D4

D3-D4

D4

This week

6.42

93.58

63.29

40.80

13.30

0.38

Last week

11.69

88.31

62.74

45.09

14.26

0.93

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Most states reported an increased percentage of drought conditions, but some states, such as Missouri, saw extreme to exceptional drought conditions drop by nearly 7 percentage points this week.

dry crops worry farmers When will it rain…or snow?
The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, updated last week, showed marked improvement for areas east of the Missouri River. However, through the end of November there are numerous states that are expected to continue to battle drought.

“There remains a large area covering the central and southern Plains, the central and northern Rockies, the central Intermountain West, and much of California where drought conditions are expected to persist,” Forecaster Rich Tinker wrote in the outlook. “Most of these areas are moving toward a climatologically drier time of year, and there is no compelling indication that substantially above-normal precipitation will fall during the next 3 months.”

Many areas in the Corn Belt need at least 10-12 inches of rain to quench the drought, but with the outlook looking grim, the possibilities of rain may be few and far between.

“As you move west in the Plains it’s a dry time of the year, so it becomes harder to overcome deficits that have accumulated,” Tinker said in a report from Climate Central, available here.

Even states pegged by the Outlook to receive some relief shouldn’t expect the drought to end by November.

“Improvement doesn’t mean alleviation,” Tinker said.



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