Ag Weather Forum

Drought Issues in Northern Areas

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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No more than half the normal precipitation fell during the March-to-May period over the eastern Canadian Prairies (top) and Northern Plains (bottom). (AAFC and NOAA graphics by Nick Scalise)

For the major crop areas of North America in general, drought concerns are not even on the back burner. Headlines in the past month have almost all been about rain -- and more rain -- and flooding -- and wet soils. And so forth.

But, in the Northern Plains and the eastern Canadian Prairies, the March-April-May time frame was pretty dry. Precipitation totals of no more than 50% of normal were recorded; many stations had less than that. In Glasgow, Montana, the March-to-May period was the driest in 16 years -- since 2001. Miles City, Montana had its third-driest May on record.

The U.S. weekly Drought Monitor report summary outlines the Northern Plains situation this way: "Objective short-term blends indicated conditions quickly deteriorating in the Dakotas and eastern Montana. Less than one-half inch of precipitation has fallen (50% of normal) during the last 30 days percentiles were in the D1-D3 range ... North Dakota's pasture and range conditions are rated 21% poor to very poor while its topsoils and subsoils were rated at 36% and 23%, respectively. South Dakota's pasture and range conditions are rated 26% poor to very poor and subsoils were rated at 38% and 39%, respectively. Montana's pasture and range conditions are rated 17% poor to very poor while its topsoils and subsoils were rated at 34% and 20%, respectively."

In the Canadian Prairies, reports for the southern portion of Saskatchewan generally have these comments: "Strong winds continue to dry out topsoil in the region. Cropland topsoil moisture is rated as 1% surplus, 79% adequate and 20% short. Hay land and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as 60% adequate and 40% short ... A significant rain will be needed soon to help crops germinate and emerge and pastures grow. There are concerns that crop and hay yields will be negatively affected if rain is not received soon."

And, in Manitoba, comments from the Interlake sector of the province note dryness attention: "Overall, most producers have noted that it has been a drier-than-normal as well as cooler-than-normal spring weather. As a result, crop emergence and crop development has been a bit slow. Most growers would like to see some rain to stimulate crop emergence and then return to normal weather conditions to advance crop emergence and development."

Drought forecasts for June indicate little chance of drought formation in most crop areas; however, the Northern Plains and eastern Prairies are expected to have drought either develop or persist.

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