Ag Weather Forum

Drought Easing Not Expected

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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NOAA forecast maps for August feature generally above normal temperatures and only climatological "equal chances" on precipitation for the major U.S. crop areas. (NOAA graphic by Nick Scalise)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 30- and 90-day forecast suggests that any easing of drought over the western Corn Belt will not happen until it's too late for the 2017 crop season.

NOAA's August forecast features above-normal temperatures for all but the southwestern U.S., and precipitation showing "equal chances" for above, normal, or below-normal amounts for all but, again, the southwestern U.S. In other words, very warm to hot and dry conditions appear to be locked in through the rest of the corn pollination and filling stages, along with soybean pod-setting and pod-filling stages.

The 90-day period, August through October, also stays warm throughout the contiguous U.S. Precipitation indications bring in above-normal totals in the far Southern Plains along with the southwestern U.S.; but, elsewhere, the "equal chance" assessment is in place, except for below normal in the Pacific Northwest.

This set of conditions has South Dakota State Climatologist Laura Edwards thinking that drought easing in the Northern Plains -- along with the rest of the Western Corn Belt -- is not likely through the balance of the production season. The pattern that is bringing the hottest and driest conditions since 2012-13 to the Western Corn Belt is stout.

"Given the outlook for the remainder of the season to be more likely warmer than average temperatures over the area, I am inclined to think that drought may actually get worse before it gets better," Edwards said in an e-mail to DTN. "This is not to say no rain at all, but perhaps some shortwaves moving across the area with spotty rain and wind."

Even though portions of the Dakotas had showers and thunderstorms during the July 18-19 period, Edwards does not see these occurrences as signifying an easing of drought. "Rains like what we saw the last couple of days will hold things 'status quo', but we are at a critical moisture period for corn now and I think yield losses are imminent. Soybeans can perhaps still recover if moisture continues ... but I would say we are going week-by-week right now."

The CPC discussion for the August forecast made reference to the two headline features that the commodity world has been well aware of -- the extensive dryness in the Northern Plains, and the strength of upper-level high pressure in the south-central U.S. which has quashed any storm system development and allowed temperatures to soar to the highest levels in five years.

"The largest probabilities for above-normal temperatures ... are forecast across the northern Great Plains where current soil moisture values rank below the 10th percentile," the CPC summary noted. "Also, the GFS (U.S. forecast model), ECMWF (European community forecast model), and Canadian ensemble (Environment Canada model) means indicate that the anomalous 500-hpa ridge is likely to persist at least through the beginning of August."

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