Drought Expected to Last in Central Great Plains Into April

Drought conditions are expected to persist through the Great Plains and spread across most of Texas, according to a three-month U.S. outlook.

There may be some relief in eastern Iowa, northern Illinois and Minnesota, according to a forecast the Climate Prediction Center that’s valid through April 30.

“The climate models are pointing to some relief in the northern border states but in the central to southern plains states it doesn’t look as promising,” Anthony Artusa, a seasonal forecaster with the Climate Center in College Park, Maryland, said during a conference call with reporters.

The drought, which started last year in the Great Plains and Midwest, currently grips 58.9 percent of the 48 contiguous U.S. states. It has been responsible for livestock losses brought on by feed shortages, shipping problems because channels in the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers have grown too shallow and a record payout on crop insurance of $11.581 billion for 2012.

The most severe form of drought now covers 6.3 percent of the contiguous U.S., which is an improvement from the 6.7 percent last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s update released today.

In the entire U.S. including Puerto Rico, 49.6 percent of the country is gripped by drought, down from 50.7 percent last week, according to the Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Dry Earth

The drought will probably persist in the Great Plains from southern South Dakota to northern Texas because the dry earth isn’t getting soaked by winter storms, Artusa said.

“This is usually the time when the soil can recharge if you get some winter storms,” Artusa said. “It looks like the soil is dry and is going to stay dry.”

Parched conditions will remain entrenched across the southern Rocky Mountains and U.S. Southwest from Wyoming to New Mexico and west into California, as well, according to the three-month forecast.

Artusa said drought conditions will probably spread beyond existing areas in California, as well.

The parched conditions may also cause higher temperatures later, as well, he said. Without moisture in the earth, the sun’s energy will go directly into heating the air above the land. In wetter conditions, some of it would be used up evaporating moisture, he said.

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