Ag Weather Forum

Drought Reduction Forecast to Continue

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Drought reduction or removal across most of the Plains is forecast by the Climate Prediction Center through this summer. (CPC graphic)

Thursday's update on the Drought Monitor showcased widespread reduction in the deep drought across a good portion of the Plains due to heavy rains last week. You can read more about the coverage of last week's rainfall here:…. More heavy rainfall occurred May 18-19 across the Southern Plains as a front swept through the region and will certainly drive more reduction in the drought across the region on next week's update.

Also on Thursday, a new forecast by the Climate Prediction Center, a division of NOAA, suggested that the drought that has been over the Plains to some extent during the last three years will continue to improve during the summer. The forecast (see attached image) is expecting normal rainfall to contribute to better soil moisture over much of the region of Texas and parts of the Pacific Northwest. No true areas of drought development are forecast, though the continued drought in Texas may shift around a bit.

The reduction in the Plains is being seen as a boost in agricultural production from these states compared to last year, and it certainly could be. The "normal" summertime rainfall pattern is a forecast DTN has been predicting since at least December. And for the most part, that forecast still holds true.

The move away from a La Nina-based state in the Pacific Ocean and toward an El Nino usually results in widespread precipitation across areas east of the Rockies, supportive of drought mitigation, but not necessarily drought reduction.

Rainfall in the Plains has been good only recently. After being missed by an active pattern that pounded the rest of the country with widespread precipitation this winter and early spring, the region finally got in on improved rainfall during the last few weeks.

That active pattern and widespread nature has significantly reduced the La Nina-driven drought that has gripped much of the western half of the country for the last three years. At just over 20% of the Lower 48 currently in drought, this is the lowest coverage of drought across the country since June 2020. For the Plains, it's the lowest since July 2020.

There is still a lot of this region in deep drought, however. Even through much of 2022, the area of Extreme or Exceptional Drought (D3-D4 on the Drought Monitor) has not been as large as it is now. Though it peaked at just over 22% of the Plains in early December 2022, the current area of just over 12% is higher than all of the 2022 growing season, which was a poor agricultural production year. It doesn't compare to 2021, however, where the intense D3-D4 drought area covered almost 25% of the Plains in August, a year where that number did not go below 17% coverage until mid-October.

All this is to say that drought is still a big factor for those in the Plains, especially from Nebraska southward. Subsoil moisture is still very low for most of the region. La Nina has produced harsh weather conditions that will take some time to eradicate.

Normal precipitation patterns during the summer would certainly help, and drought reduction is possible, but normal precipitation patterns are also erratic in the Plains. Precipitation is dominated by thunderstorms that focus rainfall into small or regional areas instead of wide swaths. Areas are almost certainly missed even in times of good regional precipitation. Though drought is predicted to recede this summer, there are undoubtedly areas that will not find the good graces of Mother Nature, which are impossible to predict for an entire season. However, with a return to "normal", more of the region could lift themselves out of drought, or at least the worst degrees of it by the end of summer.

For more information on how the summer weather will turn out not just in the Plains but across the country, register for the upcoming DTN Ag Summit Series event, "Crop Updates from the Field." We will visit with farmers from across the country, talk about the latest dicamba and pesticide news and discuss DTN's latest weather and market outlooks. The program begins Tuesday, May 23, at 8:30 a.m. CT. We understand if you're too busy to attend live. It will be available for replay, however, you must register before the May 22 deadline to gain access. Registration is free, and you can find more details here:

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John Baranick can be reached at


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