La Nada complicates drought relief for ag states

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Agricultural producers across the nation’s heartland are desperate for relief from the oppressive drought, but as weather systems fail to produce much relief, the region continues to sink further into drought.

Currently 60 percent of the lower 48 states are in moderate or worse drought, according the latest Drought Monitor report released on Thursday.  

Similar to the past three months, the driest areas in the country are on the Plains, including Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.  Extreme to exceptional drought makes up at least 75 percent of each of these key agriculture-producing states:  


Kansas: Though little rain fell across the state over the past 7 days, conditions shifted slightly. Now 39 percent of the Sunflower State is considered in exceptional drought, the highest level reported by the Drought Monitor, compared to 40 percent last week.  However, 84 percent of Kansas is still considered in excessive drought, and no part of the state is able to escape the grips of the intense predicament.  



Nebraska: Unfortunately for Nebraska producers, the report again showed little movement in drought conditions. Seventy-eight percent of the state has been reported in exceptional drought since early October. A trace of rain covered the state during the past week, but most of the state requiring up to 12 inches of rain to quench the drought.



Oklahoma: The Sooner State just can’t catch a break. One year ago, 85 percent of the state was considered in extreme or worse drought. Today, despite relief earlier this year, 76 percent of Oklahoma is now in these same drought conditions. To make up for the precipitation deficit and make up for the drought, many areas need between 6 to 15 inches of rain.



South Dakota:  The drought is slowly creeping further north in the state, and now 33 percent of it is in exceptional drought. Some areas, primarily in the northern parts of the states, saw up to ½ inch of rain over of the past week. However, up to 9 inches of rain will be needed to end the drought’s impact.

 See how your state is doing here.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has further bad news for these states as it expects an abnormally dry outlook for the region over the next 7 to 10 days. However, the eastern Corn Belt will likely see more rain chances, further improving drought conditions.

Where’s El Niño?
Many eyes were turned to the possible development of El Niño, but these hopes were crushed this week as the CPC canceled its El Niño watch.

“While the development of El Niño, or even La Niña, cannot be ruled out during the next few months, ENSO-neutral is now favored through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13,” the CPC reports.

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society has put the probability of El Nino developing through the end of January at 37 percent. Instead, the likelihood is for a neutral phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) sometimes referred to as “La Nada,” a meteorological wild card.

“With La Nada, it’s like teenagers without rules. It’s unconstrained and unpredictable,” NASA climatologist Bill Paltzert told the Los Angeles Times in a report available here.

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