Ag Weather Forum

Southern Plains Weather Concerns

By Mike Palmerino , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
The past 60 days have brought no more than 25% of normal precipitation to the southwestern Plains wheat areas. (NOAA graphic by Nick Scalise)

Concern is building over the condition of the winter wheat crop in the Southern Plains due to dryness, winds, heat and cold. Topsoil moisture has declined sharply since the first of the year. On January 1, topsoil moisture ranged from 10% to 20% short in the major wheat areas of the Southern Plains. On the latest crop report dated March 27, topsoil moisture is now rated 50% to 70% short. There have been reports in northwest Oklahoma of not having received over .25 inch of precipitation in over 90 days.

We have also been hearing of major wildfires in Kansas and Oklahoma due to the combination of dryness and wind. The windy conditions have been caused by the rapid temperature changes observed. For example, many locations on Tuesday, March 22, were in the 80s Fahrenheit. By Sunday morning March 27, low temperatures were in the upper teens to low 20s F over western portions of the region. This is the second time within the past ten days we experienced temperatures cold enough to damage any jointing wheat in western areas.

We remain quite concerned about this pattern going forward. The forecast models remain quite consistent in indicating no significant precipitation in the Southern Plains for at least the next ten days. They tend to vary from run to run in the 10-15 day period as to whether any significant precipitation will occur. As long as this pattern remains dry, we would expect to continue to see additional temperature extremes, which will put more stress on the crop on top of the dryness issues.

Looking farther ahead, how the weather patterns evolve this spring in the Southern Plains could have a major impact on summer weather conditions in the Midwest. If the Southern Plains drought intensifies, it could potentially threaten the Midwest with some hot and dry conditions this summer, especially in the western Midwest. On the other hand -- If the drought pattern ultimately breaks in the Southern Plains, we could be setting up for a very favorable growing season in the Midwest. Stay tuned.

Mike Palmerino



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