Ag Weather Forum

Hot and Dry June Caused Flash Drought for Eastern, Southern US

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Dryness and drought conditions have developed across large portions of the eastern U.S. during June as well as portions of the Southern Plains and Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Drought Monitor graphic)

The U.S. Drought Monitor becomes an important resource for meteorologists during the growing season, as it can sometimes be difficult to characterize which areas of the country are having issues with soil moisture and which areas are not.

While the Drought Monitor does have its issues and can lag behind the actual conditions in a given area, it gives us the best overall look at the potential issues that are facing crop growth.

The direction of that drought is sometimes more important than the actual value that you see on the map. Worsening conditions that may only indicate D0 (abnormally dry) or D1 (moderate drought) may indicate poorer conditions than D2 (severe drought) or D3 (extreme drought) where improvement has just occurred. That may not always be the case but is important to note as well.

A look at the most recent Drought Monitor update valid July 2 shows us that much of the Corn Belt has little or no dryness or drought issues with patchy D0-D1 drought scattered across the south and east, with a lot of scattered D1-D2 drought in the Northwest, Southern Plains, Four Corners, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic. But some of these areas are going in different directions than others.

During June, largely hot and dry conditions have caused drought to worsen in portions of the Eastern Corn Belt, Southeast, and especially in the Mid-Atlantic. The Northwest was not hot but also saw drought conditions expanding and worsening. At the same time, though it was a hot month, much of Kansas and the Four Corners areas have seen drought reduction due to improved rainfall. Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, and northern Texas, which were coming off a very wet spring where flooding was an issue, have now started to go the other way and drought has expanded a bit there.

The ebb and flow of the rainfall pattern during the month of June has caused mixed conditions for American farmers. Those in the portions of the East that had been too wet this spring now find themselves too dry while the opposite is true for those in Kansas that had seen drought building have now become favorably wetter.

The one thing that the U.S. Drought Monitor does not tell us about is the flip side of the coin. Instead of drought, some areas in the Upper Midwest have been dealing with overly saturated soils and flooding, another detriment to crops that stunts growth and saps yield.

But we will continue to monitor the progress and changing landscape of drought across the U.S. this summer. The good news for some is that the forecast during the next week calls for improved rainfall chances for many of the dry areas in the East and Southeast, while flooded areas in the Upper Midwest may see a stretch of needed dry conditions by the weekend.

The dryness that follows may not be so good, but long-range models do show some potential for improvement across the Corn Belt again by the end of July, which also extends through the East.

And, of course, the tropics will be monitored closely as those storms could quickly inundate drought areas with substantial rainfall. The tropical season is already off to a strong start with three named systems as of July 3, with a monster hurricane heading west through the Caribbean that may turn northward through the western Gulf of Mexico early next week.

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John Baranick can be reached at


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