Ag Weather Forum

Western Ridge Breaking Down, Increased North-Central Rainfall?

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
A ridge that is rebuilding in the west will move eastward through Canada into next week. The trough currently in the Bering Sea is forecast to slide in behind it and take the ridge's place in western North America for all of next week. (Tropical Tidbits graphic)

"Western ridge" has had a broken-record quality to it since the start of June. We have seen some ebbs and flows of it, but rarely have we seen it move during the last two months.

That changed late last week. The ridge spread itself too thin and allowed a pair of disturbances and troughs to move through western North America. It also opened the door for several other disturbances to join in, producing a bevy of fronts that have and will move through the Corn Belt, making for good rainfall totals.

While not every spot has seen rain, some major drought areas finally got some much-needed precipitation. Northeast North Dakota, northeast South Dakota, southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, and southern Wisconsin all saw rainfall amounts in the 1- to 3-inch range with locally heavier amounts. With corn and soybeans filling grain, the rainfall was very timely.

The series of disturbances have also led to good rainfall elsewhere through the Corn Belt, including portions of Kansas and southern Nebraska which have been drier as of late.

Not everyone has been so lucky. Southeastern North Dakota, much of northwest Minnesota, south-central South Dakota, and northern Nebraska have largely been left out. Much of this is having a negative impact on yields, especially where temperatures have been higher toward Nebraska and South Dakota.

With rainfall being rather plentiful across the southeastern Corn Belt throughout the season, the recent rainfall has been icing on the cake for filling corn and soybeans. While rainfall has been moderate to heavy, it has not been excessive, or caused too much in the way of flooding.

The last of the frontal boundaries is pushing through the Canadian Prairies Aug. 11 and will slide through the Corn Belt and push south to the Gulf Coast this weekend. For the Northern Plains, this will be a dry period, while heat and humidity across the south lead to good rainfall yet for the Central and Southern Plains, Midwest, Delta, and Southeast.

The western ridge is making its surge back into its comfortable seat in western North America. But this time, it will only be transient. Over the weekend and into early next week, this ridge will shift eastward into eastern Canada.

That will open up the opportunity for a trough now in the Bering Sea to slide into western North America. Models which had been stuck on that ridge staying put in the west, are now focused on keeping it in the east, while the trough maintains the western position.

This is favorable news for Plains corn and soybean producers. This pattern allows storm systems to move through the Rockies and into the Plains states. With the ridge in the east, clockwise flow around it will pump moisture from the Gulf of Mexico farther northward, something that has been rare in reverse this summer. The combination will bring several chances of rainfall next week to the Plains, but specifically from the Central Plains into the Canadian Prairies.

Models are still working out the specifics, and producers in the area should not get their hopes too high yet. But the opportunity for more periods of showers for the middle of August is something to feel at least optimistic about. The northwest region, which has been plagued by drought all year, may end up with some timely rains during the fill period to bring about a decent crop. It would be amazing to see areas in D3 or Extreme Drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor post decent yields while grain stocks continue to be tight and prices are high.

There is still some time for corn, and a bit more for soybeans, to realize better yields than expected two weeks ago, and models may still change their tune on rainfall chances. But for those in the Western Corn Belt, there is hope yet.

John Baranick can be reached at


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