The Midwest couldn't stay out of the U.S. Drought Monitor discussion long as dryness creeps into Indiana and nearly covers the western half of Wisconsin this week.
Dryness is closing in on Iowa, too, though three-quarters of state is already classified in moderate drought. Dryness has expanded significantly since last week; Minnesota is nearly covered.
Beneficial rainfall continues to improve drought conditions in western and southern South Dakota, where moderate drought and dryness have stopped expanding. Extreme drought in Nebraska has also been reduced.
In the West and Plains states, full-fledged drought continues to rage on, though small spots of recovery are beginning to show in northern and western Texas and portions of Oklahoma and Kansas. Dryness continues in Louisiana, where it expanded across the state and into Arkansas.
Conditions continue to get worse in the Western region of the U.S., including California and parts of Idaho, Montana and Utah. Severe and moderate drought has expanded in the region due to low rainfall totals.
Almost a quarter of pasture and rangeland conditions are still rated very poor to poor across the West, expected to decrease a bit more due to slowing monsoon rains and expected heat, according to the USDA.
Wildfires have also become an issue for the region. The National Interagency Fire Center reported 51 active, large wildfires on August 20, up from last week. Large fires continue to 10 western states including Idaho, where the Elk Fire has consumed over 130,000 acres of vegetation, an increase of over 30,000 acres this week. The Drought Monitor reports that the cost of battling wildfires in 2013 has now exceeded $1 billion.
Despite the ongoing drought as a whole, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming each have small pockets of easing drought.
The Southeast and east remains in decent shape, as precipitation reaching totals as high as 10 inches were recorded in portions of the region during the latest drought monitor period. However, that has caused a few issues for farmers in the region as cotton bolls begin to open and ponding appears in row crop fields, USDA said.
Looking ahead, there is an above-normal chance for precipitation mainly in the Southeast, the extreme Southern Plains, and the Southwest for Aug. 22-26. To close out the month, the odds favor normal to above-normal temperatures across the entire contiguous U.S., while below-normal precipitation is expected in the Southern Plains and the Pacific Northwest.