In the West, warm weather continues to promote fieldwork in California and the Desert Southwest. By March 17, cotton planting was underway (5% complete) in Arizona. Meanwhile, cooler-than-normal conditions prevail in the Rockies and much of the Northwest.

On the Plains, warmth lingers across the southern half of Texas, where planting is well underway. Planting is ahead of the 5-year average pace in Texas for crops such as corn (42% planted by March 17), sorghum (26%), and rice (7%). Meanwhile, cold, mostly dry weather covers the remainder of the nation’s mid-section. This morning’s temperatures plunged below 0°F in eastern North Dakota.

In the Corn Belt, precipitation has subsided across the upper Midwest, although windy weather continues to cause some blowing and drifting of snow. S now showers persist, however, downwind of the Great Lakes. Cold, dry, breezy weather covers the remainder of the Midwest.

In the South, drier weather prevails, except for some lingering showers across the lower Southeast. In Georgia, corn planting was 5% complete by March 17, well behind the 5-year average of 13% due to soggy conditions. However, Georgia’s pastures have markedly improved in recent months, from 53% very poor to poor and 18% good to excellent on November 25, to 6% very poor to poor and 50% good to excellent on March 17.

Outlook: Cool weather will continue to dominate the U.S., ex cept for a mid- to late-week surge of warmth across the West and the High Plains. By week’s end, lingering warmth will be confined to the south-central U.S. and portions of the Southeast. Meanwhile, precipitation will gradually diminish in the East, while a new storm system will begin to take shape across western Canada. Late in the week, a low-pressure system will develop across the nation’s mid-section. Five-day precipitation totals could reach 1 to 3 inches in the Northwest and from central portions of the Rockies and Plains into the Southeast. In contrast, little or no precipitation will fall from southern California to the southern High Plains. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for March 24-28 calls for colder-than- normal conditions east of the Rockies and along the Pacific Coast, while near-normal temperatures will prevail in the West. Meanwhile, near- to below-normal precipitation across the majority of the U.S. will contrast with wetter- than-normal weather in the middle and southern Atlantic States.