Ag Weather Forum

Dryness Building in Central Region

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Mid-October to mid-November average temperatures in the central U.S. ranged from 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal to a whopping 15 to 20 F degrees above normal. (MRCC graphic by Nick Scalise)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The effects of a record or near-record warm and dry trend across the central U.S. region during mid-October to mid-November are prominent in the thoughts of NOAA Central Region forecasters and climatologists.

Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel made that point during a news conference call Nov. 18. The region, which extends from Montana to Ohio, is "drier than normal," said Angel. "Montana and Wyoming are the exceptions, and the dryness is more intense east and southeast," he said.

Drier conditions are impressive to Angel. "The region had a very wet July and August. Some locations were 12 to 15 inches (precipitation) above normal," he said. "The rain helped soil moisture to be in great shape coming out of the growing season."

Now, however, dry conditions are knocking on the door, he said. The most prominent situation is in Kentucky, where Level Two (Severe) Drought is now in place, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, after having heavy rain during August. "You wouldn't have expected that, but with it being so warm, we're getting more evaporation," Angel said. When asked if Kentucky's circumstance constituted a "flash drought," Angel said it does. "Typically that would happen in July and August, but with it being so warm and dry, this would qualify as a flash drought," he said.

Angel is also watching for the potential for the drought in Kentucky and the southeastern U.S. to spread into the southern Midwest. "The southeastern dryness is creeping into the Missouri Bootheel, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio," he said. The only exceptions in the region since mid-October for precipitation are in Montana and Wyoming. "Montana and Wyoming are the exceptions with very wet conditions," he said.

Looking to the start of winter, Angel said a developing weak La Nina in the Pacific Ocean (cooler-than-average water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific) will bring "an interesting pattern." NOAA forecasts call for colder weather in the Northern Plains and northern Midwest, along with above-normal precipitation in the Northern Plains and the eastern Midwest.

Dryness is still around as a factor to watch. "Seasonal forecasts call for the drought in the Southeast to expand, and the drier conditions in the Southern Plains to remain with some expansion," Angel said.

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