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Dry Getting Drier, Wet Getting Wetter -- Drought Monitor

Jeff Caldwell 04/17/2014 @ 8:37am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Rain and snow last weekend and early this week was enough to put a dent in the general drought conditions in some key crop areas, while others saw just limited precipitation, leaving things shrouded by continued dryness, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor update released Thursday morning.

The rain and snowfall Sunday and Monday in the Midwest helped knock down the drought conditions by a general category according to the latest map from the National Drought Mitigation Center. Though there was some semblance of consistency in the precipitation, the temperature picture lacked that altogether in the last week, according to Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center.

"A significant rain and snow event in the Midwest brought 2 to 4 inches of precipitation from Iowa into Wisconsin and Michigan. A full category improvement to the drought depiction was made from eastern Iowa into Wisconsin. For northwest Iowa, the dry pattern continued, and D1 conditions were pushed farther to the west," Fuchs says. "Most of the region was above normal for the week, even with the wild swing in temperatures. The upper Midwest was 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit below normal for the week."


The last week has been less kind to the wheat farmers in the Plains, where, despite some pockets of much-needed moisture around the region, temperatures fell dangerously low, threatening the area's hard red winter wheat crop, Fuchs says.

"The temperatures this week were quite variable as very warm temperatures were followed by very cold temperatures at the end of the week. Most of the region was 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the week outside of the northern High Plains," he says. "Portions of Nebraska and eastern Kansas saw a mix of thunderstorms, rain, and wet snow, but this was not enough to show improvements. The drought intensity increased to D3 over central Kansas, while D2 was expanded into more of eastern Kansas."

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Moving forward, the way the drought unfolds in the next week to 10 days remains highly variable, says Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist with MDA Weather Services. There will be further relief in the southern Corn Belt, but the areas where it's most critically needed won't see much rainfall.

"Below-normal rains in the Delta, and central and southern Plains will allow drought conditions there to worsen," Keeney says.

And, where the opposite problem -- excessive spring rainfall -- is most pressing, there could be additional delays piled on top of already cool, soggy field conditions that continue to fuel anxiety about planting delays in the coming days and weeks, adds Fuchs.

"Over the next five to seven days, there is a good chance of precipitation from the Plains to the upper Midwest, with more than an inch anticipated from northern Wisconsin into eastern Nebraska and south into Oklahoma and Arkansas," he says. "The six- to 10-day outlook continues to show higher-than-normal chances for above-normal precipitation over most of the southern Plains, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. The best chances for above-normal temperatures are in the middle and eastern sections of the U.S., from the Rocky Mountains and to the east."

   

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