Tuesday, April 24, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought and Climate for July 2017: Drought persists over northern Plains 

Access the latest monthly drought outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
The two maps above are from the High Plains Regional Climate Center.
Find these and other products related to the U.S. Drought Monitor on the USDM website.

By Curtis Riganti and Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologists


July was characterized by drought development, persistence, and degradation over much of the northern Plains region, with mostly smaller changes in drought noted in other regions of the Great Plains and western continental United States. During July, a strong ridge developed over the central and northern Rocky Mountains and High Plains, leading to high temperatures and decreased rainfall. This led to drought development and intensification over much of eastern Montana and the Dakotas, leaving portions of these regions in severe drought or worse as July ended. Conditions also changed rapidly over the central Plains and Midwest as these areas dried out and recorded warmer than normal temperatures in portions of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. These changes led to the development of pockets of abnormally dry conditions and moderate and severe drought, especially in areas missed by spotty rainfall. In the southern Plains, areas in short-term drought at the beginning of the month experienced worsening in some locales and improvement in others. Moderate drought also developed over coastal Maine. At the end of July, the population experiencing drought had increased from nearly 15.8 million to 21.3 million people. The amount of area in drought increased from 8.45 percent to 11.77 percent during the month, and exceptional drought was introduced for the first time since January 2017, with 0.76 percent of the contiguous United States now experiencing exceptional drought.

Drought Outlook

During August, drought is expected to persist over eastern Montana, North Dakota, northern Minnesota, and most of South Dakota, while improvement or drought removal is anticipated over southeast and south central South Dakota and northeast, central, and southwest Nebraska. Drought will continue to develop over portions of northwest Montana. Drought in central and south central Iowa will persist. Central and western Oklahoma and the eastern Oklahoma and Texas panhandles can expect some areas of drought improvement and removal during August. Improvements are also projected in south central Texas and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In the Southwest, drought persistence is anticipated over coastal southern California, southeast California, and southwest Arizona, while drought removal is expected in south central and southeast Arizona.


During July, temperatures in the northern High Plains were well above normal, with areas of eastern Montana and western North Dakota experiencing temperatures 6-10 degrees warmer than normal. Throughout Idaho, eastern Oregon, Nevada, California, and eastern Wyoming, some areas had temperatures greater than 6 degrees above normal. In general, the region from the Missouri River valley in the Dakotas to central California and the southern California coast experienced temperatures at least 2-4 degrees above normal. Elsewhere in the contiguous United States, temperatures were mostly within 4 degrees of normal, with scattered pockets of warmer and cooler than normal temperatures.


In the western United States, most areas were within 2 inches of normal precipitation for July. Most of the Pacific Northwest received 1 inch or less of precipitation during July, which was slightly below normal. Precipitation departures were variable; much of the corridor from the mid-Atlantic to Chicago and the Quad Cities was 2-6 inches wetter than normal, while drier conditions (departures of 2-6 inches below normal) occurred from southwest Illinois and central Iowa southwest to Missouri and Kansas. Conditions in the southern Plains and Southeast were highly variable, with precipitation anomalies ranging from 4-6 inches below normal to 6 inches or more above normal.


Regional Overviews


Temperatures in July were primarily near or below normal in the region, with some areas cooler than normal. Temperatures in Maine varied from 3 degrees cooler than normal to 2 degrees warmer than normal. Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey were mostly near or above normal, with the warmest temperature anomalies (2-4 degrees above normal) found in the Chesapeake Bay region. Precipitation was above normal along the I-70 corridor, with some areas receiving 3-6 inches above normal precipitation for the month. Coastal Maine received generally under 2 inches of rain, placing them 1.5-3 inches below normal and leading to moderate drought development. During July, moderate drought developed over Maine and covered 9.82 percent of the state by the end of the month. There were no other drought areas in the region at the end of the month.


Temperatures in July were above normal for most of Virginia and North Carolina, with departures of 3-5 degrees above normal for south central Virginia and east central North Carolina. South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia were generally within 2 degrees of normal, with a few isolated cooler and warmer areas ranging from 3 degrees below normal to 4 degrees above normal. Northern Florida experienced close to normal temperatures, while the southern Florida Peninsula was generally 1-3 degrees above normal. Precipitation anomalies were variable in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, and were generally minimal elsewhere. South central Virginia and the Piedmont region of North Carolina southeastward into the coastal plain recorded precipitation that was 2-4 inches below normal, and the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama had as much as 4-6 inches below normal precipitation during July. The Gainesville, Florida, area received as much as 10 inches above normal rainfall, while the corridor from Orlando to Tampa saw 2-6 inches above normal rainfall. No drought was present in the region at the beginning or end of July.

Movers & Shakers for July 2017

Percent area July 4, 2017

Percent area August 1, 2017 Status Percentage point change
Biggest increases in drought
Hawaii 57.03 69.01 Moderate 11.98
1.00 11.64 Severe 10.64
Iowa 8.90 36.19 Moderate 27.29
0 7.05 Severe 7.05
Kansas 0 4.83 Moderate 4.83
Maine 0 9.82 Moderate 9.82
Minnesota 6.41 17.41 Moderate 11.00
Missouri 0.01 4.72 Moderate 4.71
Montana 42.94 53.39 Moderate 10.45
12.89 25.06 Extreme 12.17
0 11.87 Exceptional 11.87
Nebraska 8.69 41.90 Moderate 33.21
0 6.44 Severe 6.44
North Dakota 66.77 81.74 Moderate 14.97
46.99 62.45 Severe 15.46
29.29 44.09 Extreme 14.80
0 7.62 Exceptional 7.62
Oklahoma 10.57 18.51 Moderate 7.94
0.01 3.65 Severe 3.64
South Dakota 57.73 82.45 Moderate 24.72
34.14 53.17 Severe 19.03
4.3 13.15 Extreme 8.85
Texas 6.01 9.90 Moderate 3.89
Biggest improvements in drought
Arizona 27.83 10.69 Moderate 17.14
New Mexico 6.56 0 Moderate 6.56


Texas and Oklahoma experienced mostly warmer than normal temperatures in July, while areas to the east were more variable. The northern Texas Panhandle and central Texas saw temperatures as warm as 3-5 degrees above normal. Most of southern Louisiana and southern Mississippi were near normal to 1-2 degrees below. Central and northern Mississippi, northern Louisiana, and western to central Tennessee were slightly above normal, with a couple of areas observing temperatures 3-5 degrees above normal. Precipitation from central Tennessee to northern Arkansas ranged from near normal to 6 inches above normal, with the highest rainfall totals being recorded in north central Arkansas and southwest of Nashville. Southeast Oklahoma and far northeast Texas saw precipitation as high as 8-10 inches wetter than normal. Southeast Mississippi recorded 2-8 inches above normal precipitation. Meanwhile, south central Texas, northeast Mississippi, and parts of the Mississippi Delta were drier than normal. At the start of August, some areas from Oklahoma City westward to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles were in moderate to severe drought. Moderate coverage expanded during July from 4.44 to 7.46 percent, while severe drought coverage increased from 0.47 to 0.85 percent.


Temperatures across the Great Lakes region in July were generally near to slightly below normal, except for northeast Ohio, where temperatures ran 1-3 degrees above normal. Temperatures in the southwest half of Iowa, southwest Illinois, and much of Missouri were 1-4 degrees warmer than normal. Temperatures in Kentucky varied from 3 degrees below normal to 3 degrees above normal. Portions of western and southern Minnesota were also warmer than normal. Much of Ohio and Indiana were 1.5-6 inches above normal rainfall, with southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois also receiving 1.5-6 inches greater than normal. Central and western Iowa, most of Missouri, and western and northern Minnesota received 1.5-4.5 inches below normal rainfall. At the beginning of August, drought had developed and intensified in central, southern, and northwest Iowa, east central Missouri, and northwest Minnesota. During July, moderate drought coverage increased from 2.09 to 7.82 percent, and severe drought was introduced and covered 0.80 percent of the region at the beginning of August.

High Plains

From northern Nebraska northwestward into the drought-stricken regions of central and western South and North Dakota, temperatures were 2-8 degrees above normal. Temperatures in Colorado were variable, with readings between normal and 4 degrees above normal in the Rocky Mountains, normal to 6 degrees above normal in the northeastern plains, and 2 degrees below normal to 2 degrees above normal in the southeast plains. Kansas temperatures were generally above normal, with the highest temperatures, ranging from 2 to 4 degrees above normal, being recorded in the northeastern half of the state. Precipitation ranged from 1-4 inches below normal in North Dakota to 2-5 inches above normal in southeast Colorado and far southwest Kansas. Central and northeast Kansas were 1-4 inches drier than normal, with some of this dryness extending into far eastern Nebraska. Precipitation anomalies in central Nebraska and central South Dakota varied from 4 inches above normal to 3 inches below normal. Northeast Colorado, southeast Wyoming, and the southern Nebraska Panhandle were about 1-3 inches below normal for rainfall. During July, extreme drought expanded its grip on the Dakotas, while exceptional drought conditions developed in western North Dakota. Some areas in northern and western Nebraska deteriorated to moderate and severe drought conditions. Moderate drought developed in southeastern Wyoming, while a sliver of severe drought crept into northeast Wyoming. Conditions also deteriorated to moderate drought in north central Kansas. During July, moderate drought coverage expanded from 19.90 to 31.93 percent, severe drought expanded from 11.69 to 17.93 percent, extreme drought expanded from 4.72 to 8.11 percent, and exceptional drought was introduced and covered 1.06 percent of the region.


Precipitation in Washington, northern Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and California was sparse, with most areas seeing near- or below-normal precipitation for July. Southern, central, and northeastern Arizona were unusually moist, with one area seeing as much as 7.5 inches above normal precipitation, and others seeing 3-4.5 inches above normal rainfall. Temperatures were generally within 4 degrees of normal in Arizona and New Mexico, while most other regions outside of the Pacific Northwest coastline were warmer than normal. The warmest areas, where temperatures were at least 6 degrees above normal, were found in Montana, while the other warm areas were scattered across the western region. At the beginning of August, extreme drought had expanded in northeast Montana, where exceptional drought also developed. Farther west, drought development occurred in northwest Montana, where moderate drought conditions now exist. Removal of moderate drought occurred in southeast Arizona and southern New Mexico, while moderate drought formation occurred in central and northeast Utah. During July, moderate drought coverage decreased from 10.27 to 9.67 percent, severe drought coverage slightly increased from 4.49 to 4.94 percent, extreme drought coverage increased from 1.60 to 3.11 percent, and exceptional drought was introduced and covered 1.47 percent of the region.


July 2017 impact summary: Crops, livestock affected by continuing drought in northern Great Plains

The two charts above summarize information from the Drought Impact Reporter.

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

July brought more hot, dry weather to the northern Plains, further baking crops and livestock in the region.  Crop production forecasts fell as high temperatures dried up crops, prompting farmers to harvest weeks early.  Eighty reports poured in from South Dakota, documenting crop and pasture damage, water hauling for livestock, early weaning of calves, and other issues, for a total of 102 impacts listed for the state in July.  North Dakota had 50 impacts, noting similar agricultural issues, while Montana had 37 impacts, including wildfire information and fire restrictions, in addition to agricultural concerns. 

Federal assistance authorized for livestock producers

As livestock producers struggled to feed and water their herds while the weather conspired against them, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave authorization for early haying of Conservation Reserve Program acres beginning on July 16 to help farmers and ranchers in the Dakotas and Montana enduring drought.  Producers in counties experiencing drought severity of D2 or greater on the U.S. Drought Monitor, as well as counties within 150 miles of a county in D2, are eligible for early haying.  Days later, another 235,000 acres of sensitive wetlands and buffer strips on Conservation Reserve Program land in and around Montana and the Dakotas became available for emergency grazing and haying.

Drought stricken ranchers can hay conservation lands early, by Jessica Holdman, The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota), July 10, 2017

USDA opens more CRP land in SD for haying, grazing as drought expands, by Stephen Lee, (Pierre) Capital Journal (South Dakota), July 21, 2017

Northern Plains wheat crop forecasts fall

With the heat stunting crop growth and desiccating crops, many northern Plains farmers opted to cut the wheat for hay because, in many cases, the wheat was very short and produced only small kernels.  The wheat cutting began while wheat forecasts fell.  In North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast for the spring wheat crop was for a harvest of 196 million bushels, 27 percent less than in 2016. Oat production will likely be 30 percent lower, barley production may be down 47 percent, durum wheat down 50 percent, and winter wheat down 74 percent.  The outlook for South Dakota grain was also grim.  The winter wheat crop was forecast to total 28 million bushels, 56 percent lower than in 2016. The spring wheat crop may yield 32 million bushels, down 32 percent, and oat production will likely be down 30 percent to 6.3 million bushels.

Toward the latter part of July, the wheat crop forecast for Montana and the Dakotas was for a 64-million-bushel loss, according to the USDA.  Durum production was expected to be down 45 percent, compared to 2016. 

 The U.S. Drought Is Turning Wheat Into Hay, by Sydney Maki and Megan Durisin, Bloomberg, July 18, 2017

Crop production forecast to plummet in dry North Dakota, by Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, July 12, 2017

Crop production forecast to plummet in dry South Dakota, by Associated Press, KSFY (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), July 12, 2017

Hi-Line farmers feeling drought's burn, by Tim Lutey, Billings Gazette (Montana), July 23, 2017

Montana experiencing extensive wildfire activity

Numerous wildfires in Montana, sparked largely by hundreds of lightning strikes, have burned more than 350,000 acres in recent weeks and continue to burn ferociously.  The extensive wildfire activity led Governor Steve Bullock to sign an executive order in the latter part of July, declaring a fire emergency as the 270,000-acre Lodgepole Complex fire and other fires have scorched more than 300,000 acres since the start of the year.  The declaration allowed the mobilization of state resources and the Montana National Guard to fight the fires and access to money from the state’s general fund to address contingencies. 

Lightning sparks western Montana blazes; fire danger raised, by Perry Backus, Missoula Missoulian (Montana), July 10, 2017

 Governor declares emergency as Lodgepole Complex fire grows to 250,000 acres, by Sam Wilson, Billings Gazette (Montana), July 24, 2017

Lodgepole Complex fire at InciWeb, https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5399/#

National Interagency Fire Center at https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm


For more drought information, please visit the Drought Impact Reporter.



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