The late-summer drought has definitely put a headlock on crops as we go into the final portion of the 2013 season. USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey noted in a radio report last week that the amount of U.S. corn area in drought ranges from 25 to 45 percent versus 17 percent at the end of July. And the soybean area in drought is now as high as 38 percent compared with just eight percent at the end of July.
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These are excruciating numbers--and they show what happened when the big, powerful blocking high pressure in the upper atmosphere over the Arctic region moderated during early August. When that northern high's influence waned, we saw the ballooning of hot and dry conditions out of the southwestern U.S. into the Midwest. In fact, last week truly featured a "Dome of Doom" over the Midwest.
As harsh as it is to consider it, the situation does not look very promising for a change to more rainfall before it's too late for row crops. Up to this point in early September, the Gulf of Mexico has been a non-factor in the circulation patterns, and the National Hurricane Center forecasters have been saying the same thing for several weeks--"We could see the tropics fire up any time"--to no avail. With the Gulf quiet already, and no tropical system to force the moisture inflow issue, a dry trend is the primary feature for the driest areas of the Midwest through the first half of the month.