Drought maintains strangle-hold on southern Plains

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Drought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map released on April 17, 2014. Dry states – especially those on the southern Plains and in the West – are continuing to sink further into drought, despite the return of wet weather. 

In the latest Drought Monitor report, more than a quarter of the country is experiencing severe or worse drought. This is up slightly from last week’s report but still 7 percentage points below drought levels reported in 2013.

Recent warm temperatures have been especially detrimental in California.

“The warm temperatures continued over the west with almost all areas above normal for the week, and in California, temperatures were 9-12 degrees above normal. This was detrimental to the low snowpack as some areas of California lost half of the snow water equivalence in a single week and there was little response to inflows into reservoirs,” Brian Fuchs with the National Drought Mitigation Center wrote in this week’s report.

KQED reports that many farmers in the Central Valley of California are struggling to keep their crops alive and have turned to an unlikely source for extra water – the oil industry. One barrel of oil produces around nine barrels of water.  Click here for more.

On the flip-side, the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, both facing extreme or worse drought, recently saw overnight lows drop well-below freezing.  Even so, dryness expanded in these areas. Nearly 30 percent of Texas and 27 percent of Oklahoma are in extreme or exceptional drought. Read the full report here.

Currently 18 states – primarily to the west of the Mississippi River – are dealing with moderate to exceptional drought.  This includes six states that have already begun to or will soon begin to plant corn.  The Ag in Drought report shows nearly one-third of corn grown in the United States within an area experiencing drought.

The good news (for some)
There was some good news, especially for most of the Corn Belt. The Associated Press reports in an article here that a cool, wet spring may bring welcomed drought relief for the Western Corn Belt.

"It looks pretty good for conditions to improve into the early summer," said Sioux Falls-based National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Gillispie about predictions for precipitation in parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Looking beyond the spring, the Seasonal Drought Outlook expects drought to ease or end by August across portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri as well as sections of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.

Unfortunately, the areas hardest hit by drought in 2014 may not see drought relief through the end of July, including California, Nevada, and western portions of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  Click here for the Seasonal Drought Outlook.  

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