Ag Weather Forum

Rain Again Bypasses Western Corn Belt

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Rainfall deficits continue to mount in western Iowa as yet another round of rain skipped over this dry sector of the Corn Belt on Aug. 3. (NOAA graphic by Nick Scalise)

Another rain event came and went over the Western Corn Belt on Aug. 3. And, once again, the entire western sector of the state of Iowa got the back of the hand on precipitation. Most of western Iowa had no more than a tenth of an inch. Central and southern Iowa didn't fare much better, with mostly one-tenth to one-half inch. General coverage of a half-inch or greater was confined to northeastern Iowa. Some notably heavier amounts occurred in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Such a missing-out is, of course, a regular happening in this high-production area of the Corn Belt in the summer of 2017. Over the past 30 days, the western half of Iowa has had only from 5% to 30% of average precipitation. That is actually less than North Dakota had in terms of a percentage of average precipitation during that timeframe. In other words, over the past 30 days, western Iowa has been in the same drought league as the Northern Plains.

This situation is easily the driest that Iowa has put up with since the harsh dry year of 2012. In 2013, the U.S. Drought Monitor had most of the state in D0 (Abnormally Dry) category; however, in 2014 and 2015, there was hardly any dryness issue at this point in the season. Then 2016 saw some dryness creep into portions of the western and south-central areas. Yet, there was nothing like this year, where D1 to D2 (Moderate to Severe Drought) covers the western two-thirds of the state.

Iowa is not the only state in the Western Corn Belt to lack rain, of course. The drought in the Dakotas has been noted repeatedly. In Nebraska and Kansas, crop prospects have certainly depended on extensive irrigation. But, add up the rain systems skipping over Iowa, along with a decline in the state's soybean crop, and include the fact that the state is a top-shelf contributor to corn and soybean supplies every year, and the importance of minimal rain becomes apparent.

The only saving-grace feature in this latest event is that weather is very cool going into the weekend and most of next week, Aug. 4-11, but that will only maintain crops. Moisture is needed to add to the crop's yield.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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