Ag Weather Forum

Active Storm Pattern Continues

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Heavy precipitation during the last two weeks has 90-day totals well-above normal for portions of the Plains, Midwest and Delta. (DTN graphic)

Recent heavy precipitation has reduced drought through a wide area of the Plains and Corn Belt. The active pattern continues during the next week.

Two recent storms produced so much precipitation in the Plains that previously below-normal precipitation during the last 90 days was changed to significantly above normal. This is unusual for a couple of events to have such a drastic impact on the total precipitation during a three-month span, but it was just what the region needed.

The combination of the two storms also led to full category reductions in drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor from South Dakota to the Texas Panhandle. In the case of eastern Colorado, the reduction was by two categories, from D3 extreme drought to D1 moderate drought.

All this is before a storm system started to develop March 22 which is now continuing to spread moderate to heavy rainfall across the Plains, Midwest, and Delta.

This is the first of a series of three storms which will produce more widespread moderate to heavy precipitation across a good portion of the major growing regions of the U.S. through March 28.

With temperatures increasing, this also involves thunderstorms, sometimes severe. A storm system in the middle of last week produced the country's first High Risk issuance from the Storm Prediction Center since May 20, 2019. High Risk designations typically only occur once every couple of years, making this one a big event. The biggest risk was due to tornadoes, and 56 were reported on St. Patrick's Day on March 17, mostly over Mississippi and Alabama. These tornadoes unfortunately led to several injuries; however, no deaths due to the storms were recorded.

These storms have been because of an active southern jet stream. While the northern jet stream remains active, the northern stream track has been over Canada with little impact to the U.S. The southern stream has been producing several storm systems now and continues to remain active through March 28 with the aforementioned three storm systems. These systems will continue to produce widespread 1- to 3- rainfall amounts and locally heavier, especially across the Delta and Southeast due to stronger thunderstorms.

Speaking again of stronger thunderstorms, the Storm Prediction Center is focused on the second storm of the series across the Deep South yet again. As of the morning of March 23, they have an Enhanced Risk noted for much of the same areas as the previous High Risk last week. However, the setup could cause the Center to upgrade portions of this area with time.

The third storm in the series will not be as significant to the major crop areas as the first two. It will start off weaker and disorganized in the Plains, then shows deepening and strengthening as it moves across the Midwest but especially the East Coast. This would lead to more pronounced precipitation across the eastern Midwest through the Southeast and points eastward.

One more storm looks to be on the docket before March closes out. Models suggest this could come with another round of moderate to heavy rain and possible snow across the northern tier of the country as the calendar changes over to April.

The recent activity during March has filled soil profiles for much of the Plains, Midwest, Delta and Southeast, as producers of winter wheat breathe a brief sigh of relief with the wheat emerging from dormancy. However, not all areas have been so fortunate. The far Northern Plains region, specifically in North Dakota, has seen very little precipitation as drought is actually worse compared to areas farther south. Showers have also largely missed locales immediately adjacent to the Great Lakes and most of western Texas outside of the Panhandle. The latter two regions do have good chances for precipitation from the three storms; however, North Dakota remains out of the precipitation track, and its drought should continue to worsen.

Still, the outlook across the country is improved. However, as noted last week, we remain in a neutral to weak La Nina pattern through the summer. While a brief pause will allow producers to catch their breath and have some hope for spring, a hot and dry summer is still in the forecast. DTN's long-range forecast group continues to call for drought to expand this summer for the Plains and Western Corn Belt, even if it is reduced early this spring. Dryness should remain on the minds of corn and soybean producers, continuing to influence their crop year decisions, even if it does not look to be the case right now.

John Baranick can be reached at


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