By Brad Rippey, USDA Meteorologist, Office of the Chief Economist, World Agricultural Outlook Board, Washington, D.C.
During the five-week period ending on June 2, 2015, contiguous U.S. drought coverage plunged to 24.57 percent—a decrease of 12.84 percentage points. This represents the first time since February 2011 that less than one-quarter of the continental United States was covered by drought. All of the change has occurred in the last four weeks. In fact, the four-week change of 13.22 percentage points (from 37.79 to 24.57 percent of the continental U.S. in drought) represents the second-greatest decrease in the 16-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor—behind only 22.08 percentage points during the four weeks ending November 14, 2000.
Rampant May storminess reduced or eliminated drought’s footprint across the nation’s mid-section. Incessant showers led to the worst flooding in at least 25 years across portions of the southeastern Plains, mid-South, and western Gulf Coast region, where May rainfall topped 20 inches in several locations. In fact, May 2015 became the wettest month on record in Oklahoma and Texas. Currently, major flooding persists along parts of several rivers that drain through the lower Mississippi Valley or into the Gulf of Mexico, including the Arkansas, Red, Trinity, and Nueces Rivers.
During the five weeks ending June 2, statewide drought coverage fell from 68 percent to 5 percent in Kansas, from 59 to 0 percent in Oklahoma, from 51 to 17 percent in Colorado, and from 31 to less than 1 percent in Texas. This is especially impressive when considering that drought has been a part of the southern Plains’ landscape since autumn 2010. Farther north, where Upper Midwestern drought was short-term in nature and less deeply entrenched, the five-week drought coverage changes included decreases from 92 to 12 percent in Minnesota, from 77 to 7 percent in South Dakota, and from 48 to 3 percent in Wisconsin.
In the Far West, cool, sometimes showery May weather aided rangeland and pastures, boosted topsoil moisture, and eased irrigation requirements. However, there was little change in the West’s hydrological drought situation, which continued to feature extremely low reservoir levels and reduced groundwater reserves. Nearly 70 percent of California was in extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) on June 2, up from 67 percent on April 28. Nevada’s coverage of D3 to D4 was nearly unchanged at 49 percent.
The portion of the U.S. winter wheat crop in drought fell sharply from 44 to 9 percent between April 28 and June 2. However, May rainfall arrived too late to reverse the impacts of a harsh winter, leaving roughly one-third of the crop in very poor to poor condition by May 31 in South Dakota (37 percent), Nebraska (32 percent), and Kansas (29 percent).
On June 2, drought covered just 3 percent of the U.S. corn production area and 2 percent of the soybean area. Those numbers are down sharply from late-April 2015, when 26 percent of the corn and 22 percent of the soybeans were in drought. As hoped by producers, much-needed rain arrived across the Midwest in May, following an accelerated planting season. With the early planting, Minnesota still led the nation in soybean planting by May 31, with 94 percent of the crop seeded. By the end of May, corn planting was complete in Illinois and was at least 90 percent complete in all other Midwestern States except Missouri (87 percent planted). For the nation as a whole, 95 percent of the corn and 71 percent of the soybeans had been planted by the end of May—both slightly ahead of the respective five-year averages. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the U.S. corn was rated in good to excellent condition on May 31.
Weather outlook: During the next several days, hot weather will gradually expand eastward from the south-central U.S. and develop in the Northwest. Cool weather will linger, however, in the Southwest, the Great Lakes region, and the Atlantic Coast states. Meanwhile, an active weather pattern will prevail from the Intermountain West into the Northeast. Five-day rainfall totals could reach 1 to 3 inches from central portions of the Rockies and Plains to New England. Showers will also develop in Florida, but mostly dry weather can be expected into early next week in the south-central U.S. and the Far West.
PLEASE NOTE: The next issuance of this emailed drought update will be Thursday, July 2, 2015, unless conditions warrant an earlier release. The “U.S. Crops in Drought” products will still be produced on a weekly basis, and can be viewed here:
Archived “U.S. Crops in Drought” files can be downloaded from: