Ag Weather Forum

Drought Easing from Winter Storm

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Large portions of the U.S. east of the Rockies have some level of drought in midwinter 2017 compared with almost no drought in these areas a year ago. (U.S. Drought Monitor graphic by Nick Scalise)

An important "other side of the story" angle from the mid-January ice storm in the central U.S. is that a fair amount of the moisture from this event is likely to work into the ground and offer some easing of drought conditions.

This is not a detail to disregard when it comes to thinking about crops for 2017, because some large portions of the major U.S. crop areas -- especially in the Southern Plains, Midwest, and Delta -- have some phase of drought in effect. U.S. Drought Monitor assessments, as of Jan. 10, have close to 42% of the nation in some phase of drought. A year ago, that U.S. total was just under 30%.

Also, in mid-January 2016, almost all the drought issues were in the western U.S. from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast. There was hardly any drought level in effect east of the Rockies. The largest areas for this situation are in the southeastern U.S. and in the Southern Plains; however, in the past several weeks, some good-sized portions of the Midwest, especially in Missouri and Illinois, have also turned drier.

There has definitely been some easing from the past weekend's storm. For example, on Jan. 15 in Texas, Amarillo had 1 inch of rain, Borger had .84 inch, and Dalhart logged .70 inch, with all three setting record rainfall amounts. On the same day in Kansas, Dodge City, had a record 1.41 inches of rain, Garden City hit a record .59 inch. Medicine Lodge had a well-out-of-bounds record of 1.98 inches -- more than 16 TIMES the old record of .12 inch.

Forecast models also have well over 2 inches of precipitation indicated for the Delta, the Deep South, and north into the southeastern Midwest during the next seven days. Some of the driest southeastern U.S. areas will get some precipitation benefit with this trend.

This development is important, because long-range forecast temperature charts have an above-normal trend indicated during spring and summer 2017. The higher temperatures will no doubt lead plants to use available soil moisture earlier than average; this means that the time for soil moisture resupply will also end earlier than average. Once plant usage begins, it's hard for that soil moisture reserve to build up.

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1/16/2017 | 12:53 PM CST
no kidding