Downpours Haven't Helped Parched Countryside

Most areas of dryness and drought should receive light to moderate precipitation over the weekend.

Published on: Aug 11, 2006

Abnormal dryness and all drought intensities remained unusually expansive for the nation as a whole, leading to a variety of impacts, according to USDA's National Weather Service and National Drought Mitigation Center.

More than 5.9 million acres have been scorched by wildfires so far this year, which is 70% more than the average for the same period during the previous 10 years, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

In addition, USDA indicated that between 28 and 37% of the peanut, spring wheat, sorghum, and cotton crops were in poor or very poor condition nationally, compared to between 5 and 17% of the same crops at this time last year. Fully half of the nation's pastures and rangelands were in poor or very poor condition, a proportion exceeded only once since weekly growing season records were first gathered in May 1995. Some areas reported a large proportion of their corn and/or soybean crops in poor or very poor condition, but on a national scale, the proportion was similar to this time last year.

Regional perspective

Pockets of heavy precipitation in the southeast and Gulf coast brought improvement to a few areas, but heavy rainfall was spotty at best in most of the region, thus drought persistence or deterioration was much more common.

In the Midwest, moderate to heavy rains fell on many areas from the western Great Lakes region and southern Minnesota southward through eastern Nebraska, parts of Iowa, northern Missouri, and northeastern Kansas, with the largest amounts (4.0 to 6.5 inches) dousing central Wisconsin, southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa, central and east-central Nebraska, and northwestern Missouri. As a result, dryness was eliminated in central Wisconsin and southern Minnesota, and improvements to D0 or D1 were introduced in most of the other wet areas.

Farther south, only light precipitation fell at best across central and southern Missouri and western Illinois, prompting the eastward expansion of D0 to D2 conditions in these areas. As was the case farther east, daily high temperatures averaging 4°F or more above normal enhanced surface moisture declines in these regions.

Drought conditions continue to expand in the Plains and Rockies, taking drought conditions to the worst classification, D4, in parts of southwestern South Dakota, southern Oklahoma, and north-central Texas.

Future outlook

The next few days (through August 14, 2006) are expected to feature fairly heavy rain (1 to 3 inches) in a band from central Kansas southeastward through Georgia and much of South Carolina, across central Arizona and adjacent west-central New Mexico, and at isolated sites in southern Colorado, southwestern Minnesota, and northeastern Iowa.

Most other areas of dryness and drought should receive light to moderate precipitation, except for little or none through most of Texas, southern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, and northwestern Louisiana, much of the northern High Plains and Rockies, and southeastern Idaho. Temperatures during the period are expected to average near to somewhat above normal in all areas currently affected by dryness and drought.

For the ensuing 5 days (August 15 – 19, 2006), the odds favor above-normal precipitation from northeastern Montana eastward through northern Minnesota, and in a band covering New Mexico, the southeastern half of Colorado, Kansas, and adjacent sections of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona.

Meanwhile, below-normal precipitation is forecast for Alaska, the Carolinas, the upper South, southern Missouri, and much of Arkansas. Temperatures are expected to average above normal during this period from the Great Plains eastward while below-normal readings are forecast for New Mexico, southwestern Colorado and eastern Arizona.