Ag Weather Forum

Hot and Dry Conditions Expand Across Northern US

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Hot air building over the Western U.S. will spread across the northern tier of the country. Some locations around and including the Dakotas could reach triple digits Fahrenheit on June 4-5. (DTN graphic)

The USDA posted the first crop ratings for corn, and they came in rather high. Good-to-excellent ratings were at 76%, slightly above last year's numbers of 74%. Good rainfall over the Central and Southern Plains led to the best good-to-excellent ratings as Nebraska has the top spot at 88%. You do not have to go much farther north to see the state with the lowest ratings. That is North Dakota at just 48%.

The Northern Plains were not gifted with much rainfall last week. After solid rains moved through in mid-May, the end of May had just some scattered showers. Rainfall estimates were less than 0.50 inches for the week for most of the region outside of some thunderstorms in southwestern North Dakota and northwest South Dakota.

The Drought Monitor reduced drought in this portion of the region, but expanded the D4 category -- Exceptional drought in northern North Dakota. Good-to-excellent crop ratings for spring wheat declined 2 percentage points because of the overall dryness, down to its lowest ratings since 1988, according to DTN Lead Market Analyst Todd Hultman. That year sticks out like a sore thumb and will likely draw some comparisons if the conditions do not improve.

Scattered showers were much better for the rest of the Plains and Midwest last week. It did not show up in the overall crop ratings for winter wheat, however, as gains across the Southern Plains and Delta were offset by declining conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Drought has continued to expand during the last several months in that portion of the country.

This week, a ridge building across the West will expand across the country through the weekend. Temperatures will soar across the northern tier of the country with near-record highs indicated for the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Temperatures may eclipse 100 Fahrenheit across the Dakotas and surrounding portions of other states June 4-5 before falling back into the 90s F going into next week.

The Central and Southern Plains would be on tap for extreme heat as well if it were not for an upper-level low pressure system that will meander into Texas this coming weekend. The low will bring scattered showers along with it as it starts to tap into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

With a trough building back into the West this weekend and the ridge strengthening over the East, the upper-level low will be forced northward. We saw this scenario play out in somewhat similar fashion in the middle of May, when widespread showers spread through much of the Plains and western Midwest. This setup is similar but models are currently forecasting the low to be a touch farther east through the central Corn Belt. From eastern Texas up through the western Great Lakes, a swath of scattered showers is forecast. This should bring continued flooding risks across eastern Texas and Oklahoma and into Arkansas, and drought relief to Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Michigan may get in on some better rainfall as well.

This swath would seemingly miss much of the western and Northern Plains, where drought could expand. However, the trough in the West is likely to send a couple of pieces of energy along the U.S.-Canada border next week. If these systems can tap into that Gulf moisture stream, showers could be more widespread than currently forecast.

Upper-level lows can have a mind of their own, and are somewhat difficult to forecast a week in advance. There is some hope that models are a bit too far east with the plume, and showers could potentially show up in more widespread and heavier fashion across the Dakotas where it is needed the most. We will just have to see how that low moves. For now, drier spots in the Midwest are more likely to take advantage. And after several days of near-record temperatures, crops would be able to use the increased moisture.

John Baranick can be reached at


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