According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday, drought conditions across much of the Western and Southern U.S. are easing, while the Midwest continues its path to more droughty conditions.
Effects of the Colorado flooding from earlier this month continue to be felt in neighboring states. Record-setting crests on the Platte River have been observed, and the increase in moisture has reduced drought coverage and intensity in the area. However, USDA's Brad Rippey reports that despite all of the rain, rangeland and pastures across some parts of the Great Plains continued to suffer from the cumulative effects of multiple drought years.
On Sept. 22, rangeland and pastures were rated at least one-third very poor to poor several states, including Texas at 54%, Colorado at 43%, Nebraska at 40%, and Kansas at 36%.
In the Midwest, scattered showers last resulted in a mix of conditions across Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Heavier rains concentrated in Ohio and Indiana alleviated some dryness there – in fact, South Bend, Ind., experienced its 11th wettest calendar day on record earlier this month, keeping some drought in the area contained.
In Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the eastern Dakotas, a variety of changes were noted, though much of the region continues in the abnormally dry to severe drought designations.
According to the USDA, as of Sept. 22, topsoil moisture was rated 77% very short to short in Iowa, 69% in Missouri, 66% in Illinois, 62% in South Dakota, 61% in Nebraska and 55% in Wisconsin.
Short-term drought in the Mississippi Valley was alleviated last week with significant rainfall. Rippey reports that Pine Bluff, Ark., experienced its wettest September day since 1886 on Sept. 20. More than 4 inches of rain fell.
Despite the welcome rain, it did stop harvest activities, but boosted moisture in advance of the winter crop establishment period.
The Southern Plains and Texas is looking much better, with a large swath of extreme drought transitioning into severe drought this week. Small pockets of exceptional drought have also been downgraded.
Rains have come to an end for most of the Southwest, though not before alleviating much of the drought in the four corners states. In southeastern Arizona, Douglas experienced its greatest monsoon season rainfall on record, with 16.24 inches of rain having fallen from June 15 – Sept. 24, Rippey says.
No changes in the drought depiction were introduced this week in the Northwest, but the region will be monitored as precipitation continues to spread inland. Nevertheless, Rippey says precipitation is beneficial for newly planted winter wheat, which by Sept. 22 was 59% planted in Washington.