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Published February 07, 2013, 11:58 AM

Feb. 7 drought outlook similar to that of Jan. 17

A Feb. 7 U.S. Drought Monitor map continues to show improved prospects for moisture conditions in the next three months in the Northern Great Plains, compared with 2012, especially Minnesota and much of northern North Dakota.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — A Feb. 7 U.S. Drought Monitor map continues to show improved prospects for moisture conditions in the next three months in the Northern Great Plains, compared with 2012, especially Minnesota and much of northern North Dakota.

But the most recent map shows a slight decline in predicated “some improvement” in drought, compared with “likely to improve” in areas of southern Minnesota, north-central South Dakota and southern Montana, compared with an outlook forecast map released Jan. 17.

Gregory Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist at the University of Minnesota, says the federal drought outlook is very similar to projections from a month ago, but a “subtle shift” in prospects for drought recovery that made southwest Minnesota look drier are a result of 90-day precipitation forecasts that were updated January 31.

Spoden says the forecast is for prospects in February, March and April. He says it was based in part on Jan. 17 predictions of above-normal precipitation projections for much of North Dakota (except the extreme west) northeast South Dakota and western and northwest Minnesota. Montana and much of South Dakota was projected for normal precipitation in the three months. Mark Seeley, Minnesota Extension Service climatologist, was not immediately available for comment.

Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist at North Dakota State University in Fargo, says an improvement of drought prospects in the southeast part of North Dakota was based on short- and long-term prospects for above-normal precipitation in that area.

A separate drought index map shows moderate drought starting a little west of Pembina County and going toward Bowman County, Akyuz says. About 31 percent of the state is in the severe drought category.

Akyuz says it’s going to take a lot of precipitation to come out of or improve some areas of South Dakota’s drought. He says the latest snow storms are adding a “meager amount of precipitation” in liquid equivalents and it will take significant summer precipitation to improve the drought.

Dennis Todey, South Dakota state climatologist at South Dakota State University in Brookings, says the drought projections offer hope for “some drought improvement this spring. "But it’s a matter of how much improvement we can get and will it be enough from where we need it to be.” He says southern parts of South Dakota are facing a much larger precipitation deficit, so much more precipitation will be needed.

The national outlook was generated in the National Weather Service National Centers for Environmental Prediction Climate Prediction Center, in College Park, Md. It says year-to-date precipitation to Feb. 5 had been subnormal in the far west and Northern Plains. Jan. 1 to Feb. 5 temperatures have averaged below-normal in the west and close to normal on the Plains.

The latest monthly outlooks have kept the odds for above-normal precipitation in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest, but expanded it southeastward into the Great Lakes region, according to the report.

Nationwide, the new drought outlook map showed more improvement in drought conditions in the Georgia and South Carolina area, some abatement at the intersection of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah area, but little change in the persistent drought ranging from Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

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