Ag Weather Forum

Flood Threats Remain High

Mike Palmerino
By  Mike Palmerino , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
All major river systems in the central U.S. have moderate to major long-term flood risk for 2019 -- an indication of very wet ground. (NOAA/USGS graphic)

The first round of severe flooding is taking place in the northern and western Midwest, due to the combination of melting snow and heavy rains that occurred last week. There will be some relief from the current flooding during the next seven days, as rainfall is expected to be limited and temperatures are expected to be low enough to slow the pace of additional snowmelt. However, the longer-term outlook is a concern with the potential for more significant storminess developing at the end of March, and on into early April. This outlook is supported by the re-emergence of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean.

Our latest calculation of the sea surface temperature departure in the eastern equatorial Pacific for the first half of March was 1.5 degrees Celsius above normal. This is up from 1.3 degrees above normal during the month of February. This 1.5 degrees above normal in the first half of March is also tied with the value for December 2018, and lags only the 1.8 degrees above normal Celsius that occurred in November 2018.

In general, El Nino springs are generally wetter than normal over most of the central U.S., with the exception of the Northern plains. However, with still nearly 2 feet of snow on the ground in northeast North Dakota, even with near to below normal rainfall it seems there is no way the Red River can avoid major flooding. With soils saturated across the Midwest, additional significant flooding appears inevitable due to the wet El Nino pattern. It is looking more and more like little, if any, fieldwork will be accomplished through the first half of April.

Meanwhile, adequate to surplus soil moisture in the Southern Plains is favorable to the winter wheat crop that is breaking dormancy. Last year at this time, short to very short topsoil moisture ratings in Kansas were at 81%. This year, that total is just 1%. Soil moisture conditions should remain quite favorable in the southern Plains for developing wheat this spring due to El Nino, with the potential for a large crop.

Michael Palmerino can be reached at



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