La Niña forecast bad news for parched heartland

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Drought MonitorDrought Monitor map, released on Feb. 14, 2013 It’s been nearly 9 months since the Drought Monitor has reported less than 50 percent of the nation in moderate or worse drought, and their Valentine’s Day edition was no exception.

Though moderate to exceptional conditions across the Lower 48 did improve slightly this week – dropping to 55.73 percent from 56.84 percent last week – very little relief was felt across the Plains states.

For the High Plains in particular, the drought has been brutal. At least 50 percent of the region has reported extreme or worse drought for the past 26 weeks.

Seventy-seven percent of Nebraska is covered in exceptional drought, making it once again the highest percentage in the country. The last time this number fell below 77 percent was in September 2012. 

Kansas, another state reporting a high percentage of intense drought, reported a shift in their drought. Thirty-six percent of the Sunflower State is in exceptional drought, unchanged from last week, but extreme drought conditions improved by 4 percentage points.

Other states with high percentages of extreme to exceptional drought include

  • Colorado – 51 percent
  • Oklahoma – 87 percent
  • South Dakota – 63 percent
  • Wyoming – 57 percent

See how your state is doing here.

Images from the U.S. government’s Aqua satellite illustrate just how dry Kansas and Nebraska in particular has become since May 2012. Click on the slideshow to the rightto view the images.

Pessimism surrounding another year of drought is growing, and one meteorologist reported what could be another blow to areas hoping for recovery – La Niña.

Meteorologist Art Douglas, Creighton University, spoke last week at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Trade Show.

His message:  La Niña is now developing in the Pacific, meaning that the central Plains in particular could be facing another dry corn crop.

Douglas also expects an early, warm spring for the Midwest with the potential for normal or slightly above-normal moisture. By late spring, however, cooler and wetter weather may slow down late planting and early germination of the crop.

Read, “Warm, dry spring and a developing La Niña are forecast.”

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