Over the past two weeks, many grain-growing areas in the U.S. have seen some form of precipitation, in some areas more than two inches of rain.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows that several storm systems moving eastward in the past week have left a path of easing drought conditions, though some California and Southwestern and High Plains farmers missed out.
This lack of moisture resulted in some deterioration in northern Texas and extreme southern Texas, though weekly totals of 1 to 2 inches were common elsewhere in the Plains, yielding small, one-category improvements.
This week's Drought Monitor author David Miskus says in Kansas, although 1 to 1.5 inches fell, most of it on Tuesday, many areas have not seen runoff or surface water recharge. In Rapid City, S.D., the April 8-10 snow total was 28.2 inches, with Bismarck, N.D., receiving 17.3 inches on April 14, an all-time 24-hour record. Many other locations in southeastern Wyoming, western Nebraska, and the western Dakotas measured 6 to 12 inches of snow, the report notes.
Further, cool temperatures resulted in broad-scale freeze injury to Texas wheat, notes Texas A&M Agronomist Travis Miller.
"I think much of the High Plains wheat missed the bullet, though I did hear a few fields in the Southern High Plains report injuries," Miller says.
Quick visual comparison of the April 16 (top) drought monitor map and April 9 (bottom) drought monitor map shows significant improvements near Iowa, Minnesota and the High Plains. Click the graphic for a closer look.
Some of the same storm systems that blanketed the Western U.S. moved eastward into the Great Lakes Region and Midwest, much of the precipitation quite heavy.
Soils thawing aided drought improvement in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri. Iowa in particular saw the wettest week in terms of statewide average precipitation since June 2010. Some areas also have stream and river flooding.
As of April 14, the report says, USDA/NASS topsoil moisture rated short or very short had dropped to 26, 22, 9, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 0% in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Michigan, respectively.
Unfortunately, only light precipitation made it to the Eastern U.S., bypassing portions of the Ohio Valley and Appalachians. Precipitation has been 50% to 70% of normal since mid-Februrary, the report notes, accumulating shortages of 2 to 4 inches.
Moving south, drought continued to shrink in South Carolina and Georgia, though only hit-or-miss showers covered Florida, resulting in some reduction of D0 and D1 areas.
More drought reductions are expected into next week as the Tuesday data cutoff for the National Drought Summary does not include strong storm fronts moving across the U.S. Thursday.
USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey says for April 23-29, chilly conditions will continue for much of the Midwest and the Southeast, though above normal temps will appear west of the Rockies. Near to below-normal precipitation is forecast for much of the U.S.