Thursday, March 22, 2018

National Drought Mitigation Center

Drought and Climate for June 2017: Northern Plains see deteriorating conditions

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 Brian Fuchs, NDMC Climatologist


June was characterized by drought improvement over the Southeast while drought development was affecting the northern Plains.  During June, the area impacted by drought increased from 5.28 to 8.04 percent of the contiguous United States.  Severe drought increased from 1.12 to 3.26 percent and extreme drought increased from 0.28 to 0.97 percent. There was no exceptional drought.  Extreme drought was eliminated over Florida but at the same time was developing over Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.  The approximate number of people being impacted by drought decreased from 30.1 million people to just under 16 million people during the month.

Drought Outlook

The monthly drought outlook for July has the drought in the northern Plains continuing and developing further in the region.  There is a chance that drought will improve and be removed over much of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Patches of drought will persist over portions of Texas and Oklahoma as well as Hawaii.  Drought conditions should be removed over Alaska in July.


Most of the Southeast was cooler than normal in June, with temperatures 2-4 degrees below normal.  The Southwest was warmer than normal, with temperatures 2-4 degrees above normal.  Most of the rest of the country was normal to slightly above normal for the month.


Most of the Gulf Coast region and Southeast recorded above-normal precipitation in June, with some areas of western Florida, southern Alabama, and southern Mississippi having 12-15 inches above normal precipitation for the month.  Most of the eastern third of the United States received near normal to slightly above normal precipitation for June, but precipitation for much of the central and northern Plains was below normal.  Departures for most locations in the western half of the United States were less than 3 inches from normal precipitation.


Regional Overviews


Temperatures were mixed in the region, with most a degree or two from normal.  The warmest areas were in Maryland and Delaware, with departures of up to 2 degrees above normal. Precipitation was hit or miss; areas of northern Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire were above normal for the month while precipitation for much of northern Virginia, Maryland, and eastern Pennsylvania was below normal for the month.  Drought is not present in the region, with only a few pockets of dryness at the end of June.


Cooler and wetter than normal conditions dominated the region in June.  Most areas were 1-2 degrees cooler than normal while almost all of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia were wetter than normal, with 150-200 percent of normal precipitation for the month.  The rain helped to significantly improve drought conditions as only 0.04 percent of the region is in drought compared to 21.32 percent at the beginning of the month.  Severe and extreme drought were eliminated as well.

Movers & Shakers for June 2017

Percent area May 30, 2017

Percent area July 4, 2017 Status Percentage point change
Biggest increases in drought
Alaska 0 5.98 Moderate 5.98
Hawaii 25.37 34.34 Moderate 8.97
Minnesota 0 6.41 Moderate 6.41
Missouri 0 4.94 Moderate 4.94
Montana 0 42.11 Moderate 42.11
0 25.17 Severe 25.17
0 6.77 Extreme 6.77
North Dakota 24.11 66.77 Moderate 42.66
0 46.90 Severe 46.90
0 25.06 Extreme 25.06
Oklahoma 0 12.25 Moderate 12.25
South Dakota 20.42 56.69 Moderate 36.27
0 31.35 Severe 31.35
Biggest improvements in drought
Florida 71.66 0 Moderate 71.66
38.23 0 Severe 38.23
15.01 0 Extreme 15.01
Georgia 33.29 0.19 Moderate 33.10
17.49 0 Severe 17.49
Mississippi 4.78 0 Moderate 4.78
South Carolina 3.11 0 Moderate 3.11


Outside of Oklahoma and Texas, the region was 1-2 degrees cooler than normal in June.  Texas and Oklahoma were both normal to 1-2 degrees warmer than normal, with the warmest areas in the panhandle region of both states.  Precipitation was quite variable and scattered during June, with most of Oklahoma, south and west Texas, and western Arkansas drier than normal.  Most of eastern Arkansas, Louisiana, north central Texas, and portions of far west Texas were wetter than normal.  During June, drought increased slightly over the region, going from 2.30 percent to 4.65 percent of the region.  One small area of severe drought in northern Texas accounted for 0.31 percent of the region.


Temperatures were mixed in June, with most of the region 1-2 degrees warmer than normal and the southern portions of the region 1-2 degrees below normal.  Conditions were dry in most of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois as well as southern Missouri and southern Michigan in June.  After a very wet spring, the dryness was not too unfavorable; only pockets of dryness and some moderate drought in northern Missouri, southern Iowa, and northern Minnesota had developed.  At the end of June, only 1.92 percent of the Midwest was in drought, compared to none at the beginning of the month.

High Plains

Temperatures in June were normal to 2-4 degrees above normal over the entire region, with the warmest temperatures over Nebraska and South Dakota.  The region was dry, with most locations recording less than 70 percent of normal precipitation and pockets that were even drier in Nebraska and the Dakotas.  Drought developed rapidly this month in the Dakotas, where much of the western half of North Dakota ended the month in extreme drought.  June ended with 18.27 percent of the region in drought compared to 6.46 percent at the beginning of the month.  Severe drought increased from none to 11.26 percent and extreme drought increased from none to 3.79 percent.


The West was normal to slightly warmer than normal in June, with the warmest area in the Southwest, where departures were 4-6 degrees above normal.  Dry conditions dominated the region from eastern Montana into the Southwest.  Only a few pockets in New Mexico and the Great Basin had wetter than normal conditions for June.  The amount of the West in drought more than doubled in June, going from 4.46 to 9.85 percent of the region.  Severe drought increased from 0.16 to 3.28 percent while extreme drought was introduced and now accounts for 0.84 percent of the West.  Drought conditions developed rapidly over eastern Montana, going from abnormally dry to severe and extreme drought during the month.


June 2017 impact summary: Drought intensifying in northern Great Plains

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

By Denise Gutzmer, NDMC Drought Impact Specialist

June was a continuation of a downward spiral for northern Great Plains agriculture as crops and forage just could not get enough moisture.  Dry hayfields and pastures drove cattle sales through the month. Actions from the federal to local level were geared toward helping farmers and ranchers get through a difficult season.  At the other end of the spectrum, Florida quickly emerged from drought as heavy June rains soaked the state. 

Parched pasture and hay fields, livestock sales noted in northern Plains

In the Dakotas and eastern Montana, dryness developed rapidly during May and resulted in unusually high cattle sales as pastures and hay grew little, foreshadowing a challenging growing season of feeding livestock hay or culling herds and selling early.  Auctions were busy, moving as many as three to five times the usual number of livestock for June.  In Herreid in northern South Dakota, three times the usual number of butcher cattle, twice the number of cattle pairs, and plenty of feeder cattle were auctioned some days.  The situation was similar in North Dakota with respect to cattle sales, as growers tried to conserve their grass.  About four times the usual number of cattle were sold at auction in Wishek in south central North Dakota.  Cattle sales in Dickinson were about five times the normal number.  There might typically be 300 to 500 cattle for sale, but on June 8, there were 2,300 head.

Drought conditions lead to herd trimming across region, by Jenny Schlecht, Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), June 8, 2017

Drought takes toll: Drastic increase in cattle sales at Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange, by Ellie Potter, The Dickinson Press (North Dakota), June 8, 2017

State emergencies declared to help farmers in North and South Dakota and eastern Montana

As the situation grew increasingly dire, governors began declaring statewide emergencies to ease the burden on producers. On June 22, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum declared a drought emergency, allowing the State Water Commission to activate a program to offer water supply assistance for livestock producers in 26 counties in central and western parts of the state.  Four days later, he also announced a statewide fire and drought emergency and ordered state agencies to “maintain high levels of readiness.”  The executive order activated the State Emergency Operations Plan and also authorized the North Dakota National Guard to activate if needed.  Before the state declarations, the North Dakota Department of Transportation began limiting the mowing along highways and ditches in urbanized areas and other places to allow farmers and ranchers who are adjacent landowners to harvest the grass for livestock.

Similar measures were taken in South Dakota to help producers.  Governor Dennis Daugaard announced a statewide drought emergency as crops and livestock continued to suffer without sufficient rain. Transport restrictions were eased, allowing the movement of oversized loads of hay and feed with proper signage and reflectors. Landowners adjacent to highways were permitted to mow and bale hay along state highways.

In Montana, Governor Steve Bullock declared a drought emergency for 19 counties in the eastern part of the state, including two Native American reservations.  This area generally experienced record low precipitation, high temperatures, and strong winds during May and June, hurting crop and forage viability after a dry winter.  Producers in eastern and northeastern counties reported culling herds, buying hay, cutting crops early, and having no crops emerge four to six weeks after planting.  Extreme dust has made it difficult for ranchers to monitor their cattle. 

Federal relief arrived on June 23 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized the use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for emergency grazing for some counties in the Dakotas and Montana.  Given the severity of the lack of pasture and hay, the USDA expanded emergency grazing on CRP land, authorizing grazing in the Dakotas and Montana in any county whose border lies within 150 miles of a county in severe drought. 

North Dakota governor declares drought emergency, by Amy Dalrymple, The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota), June 22, 2017

Burgum declares statewide fire, drought emergency, by Amy Dalrymple, The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota), June 26, 2017

NDDOT changes mowing practices on state highways due to drought conditions, by North Dakota Department of Transportation, June 14, 2017

SD Governor Declares Statewide Drought Emergency, by Gary Ellenbolt, South Dakota Public Broadcasting (Vermillion, South Dakota), June 16, 2017

Drought emergency declared in 19 Montana counties, 2 reservations, Great Falls Tribune (Montana), June 23, 2017

USDA expands emergency grazing in drought states, The Associated Press, The Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota), June 29, 2017

Wheat prices climbing

Drought in the northern Plains has sent spring wheat futures up by about 52 percent in 2017 to $8.1975 per bushel on July 5.  Moderate and extreme drought gripped parts of eastern Montana and the western Dakotas, while the amount of land planted to wheat was the lowest this year since records began in 1919, according to the USDA. 

Wild Wheat Swings Spurred by U.S. Drought Threat, Export Outlook, by Sydney Maki and Jeff Wilson, Bloomberg, July 5, 2017

Last year's drought still hurting Alabama, Georgia peach crops

Alabama peach yields were just 10 to 30 percent of the usual harvest this year, according to a report from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  The warm winter, a late frost, and lingering stress from last year’s drought have taken a toll on the peach trees.  Some peach growers lost 10 to 20 percent of their trees.

Similar problems were affecting Georgia’s peach trees.  Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that 80 percent of Georgia's peach crop had been "wiped out."

Missing peaches: Alabama crop could be down 70-90 percent this year, by Dennis Pillion, (Birmingham, Alabama), June 16, 2017




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



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