Drought Intensifies in Far West, Across Great Plains

Drought Intensifies in Far West, Across Great Plains

Drought continues to impact Western agriculture, threaten wheat growing areas

Several one-category drought degradations were noted during the U.S. Drought Monitor week, according to the latest report released Thursday.

This week's Drought Montior author Eric Luebehusen of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says precipitation was mainly confined to the drought-free areas of the eastern U.S as drought persisted or intensified across the west.

One-category degradations were noted along the eastern portions of Nebraska and Kansas, edging into the western portions of Iowa and Missouri. Improvements appeared in Idaho, Illinois, southern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas.

Related: Drought To Shrink In Midwest, But Continue In California

Drought continues to impact Western agriculture; California dryness persists

Colder- and drier-than-normal conditions prevailed across much of the Midwest. A drying trend was noticeable in central Missouri and southeastern Wisconsin.

Increasingly dry conditions were also noted in central and eastern Nebraska as well as western Iowa, where moderate drought was introduced to account for 90-day precipitation totals less than 30% of normal.

Central Plains
Warm, dry weather prevailed on the central Plains, intensifying drought while accelerating winter crops out of dormancy, Luebehusen says.

Warm conditions have increased water demands of the wheat crop, while strong winds rapidly dried topsoils and caused blowing dust. Consequently, extreme drought was expanded from southeastern Colorado into western Kansas.

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Southern Plains
A late winter storm generated widespread rain from northeastern Texas into eastern Oklahoma during the week, with totals topping 2 to 3 inches in the wettest locations, Luebehusen says. Consequently, some drought reduction was noted, particularly where rain was heaviest.

On the back side of the storm, strong winds kept western Oklahoma and central and western Texas from much drought relief. Several large dust storms heightened the drought's impacts.

West
The benefits of the February and early-March precipitation rapidly diminished across California and the Southwest as unseasonable warmth and dryness increased water demands and depleted snowpacks, Luebehusen said.

In northern portions of the region, an influx of Pacific moisture generated rain and mountain snow from the Cascades into the northern Rockies. Most of the heavy precipitation fell outside of the region's drought areas, with totals in southwestern Oregon averaging up to 2 inches below the weekly norm.

A disappointing water year continued in the Southwest, with warm, dry weather quickly negating the benefits of the precipitation from February and early March across California and the Great Basin. Most notably, extreme drought returned to coastal areas north of San Francisco as well as the Sierra Nevada.

Severe drought expanded across southern Nevada, where water-year precipitation has averaged 40% to 60% of normal.

Drought Intensifies in Far West, Across Great Plains

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