Ag Weather Forum

Promising Plains Rain Chance

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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The U.S. forecast model March 23 has seven-day rainfall totals of 2 inches or higher for almost the entire southwestern Plains -- including the Texas Panhandle. (NOAA graphic by Nick Scalise)

Going into late week, rain continues to be a highlight item in weather forecasts for the central U.S. through early April. A prime area of interest, of course, is the Southern Plains, where drought conditions have expanded during the past two months.

U.S. and European forecast model depictions on Thursday had good agreement, with a slow-moving upper air trough indicated to form in southern Arizona and southern New Mexico during the March 28-31 timeframe. This trough is indicated to be a slow-moving feature; a key detail for developing rain in places like the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, southeastern Colorado, and southwestern Kansas.

A slow-moving trough (low pressure), generates southeasterly winds which, in the southwestern U.S., draw in moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. As this moist air rises over the higher elevation of the southwestern Plains, rain development is quite likely -- and enhances the chance for meaningful precipitation.

How much rain is possible? More than enough to fulfill monthly average precipitation totals in many areas. The U.S. forecast model Thursday morning featured rainfall of at least 1.5 inches, and in many locales 2 or more inches, in the seven-day time frame ending April 2. That would be favorable moisture indeed and would be a big boost to the hard red winter wheat crop in its post-dormancy phases.

The Midwest is also featured in the precipitation array, with totals in the 2-inch category noted in many areas, including some recently-dry sections of Missouri, southeastern Iowa, and south-central Illinois. This would be timely moisture ahead of spring planting.

The Far West and Pacific Northwest also have additional very heavy precipitation totals, as the Pacific Ocean refuses to back off from the energetic storm pattern that has inundated the West Coast over the past few months.

Of course, the forecast still has to verify, but these rain features have been in the model renditions for several days, which leads to higher confidence that the events will actually develop.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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