Little to no rain was seen last week in the three states that need moisture most in the Upper Midwest — North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana — and, as a result, extreme drought conditions have not diminished.

North Dakota continues to be experiencing the most severe drought conditions with 85% of the state under the extreme drought category.

“Unfortunately, April didn't turn out to be even near normal, in terms of precipitation,” said North Dakota State University climatologist Adnan Akyuz. “It was the 20th driest (on record). However, the good news is that it was cooler than normal. If it were warmer than normal, it would have exacerbated the drought conditions.”

Even recent heavy rainfall in eastern Montana and western North Dakota will not affect the deep moisture profile, WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler said. The rain did help "put out the fires," he said, but an inch of rain "is not going to stave off drought."

Akyuz said the drought North Dakota is experiencing is historical.

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“When you look at the drought in longer terms — two months and all the way up to a nine-month period — this is the driest stretch for North Dakota on record. The record goes back 127 years. Being dry that long is going to impact agriculture greatly,” Akyuz said. “If you look at the northeastern portion of the state there are locations where only 1 to 3% of the normal precipitation fell in those areas. Because of that, the drought conditions really did not improve at all.”

The impacts for agriculture that Akyuz mentions could be substantial.

“If there is a scenario where near normal rainfall happens, eastern North Dakota can still end up with normal productivity, but western North Dakota is showing below normal productivity. The most likely scenario is going to be below-normal precipitation from now to the end of the growing season, which would mean 30 to 40% lesser productivity compared to the long-term average,” said Akyuz. “We still need precipitation in June, July and August. Even if it doesn't help this year, it will tremendously help conditions for the 2022 growing season.”

Wheeler said neither major forecasting model is calling for much in the way of precipitation in the areas that need it most, plus the forecast for the next week looks to be above normal for temperatures.

"More than likely, we will see worsening drought conditions in the Northern Plains," he said.

The May 6 U.S. Drought Monitor report, reflecting conditions as of May 4, shows more than 80% of North Dakota in extreme drought, the worst showing in the region. (U.S. Drought Monitor)
The May 6 U.S. Drought Monitor report, reflecting conditions as of May 4, shows more than 80% of North Dakota in extreme drought, the worst showing in the region. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Here is a state-by-state look at this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor:

Iowa: Iowa was able to put around 15% of acres back into the “no drought” category over the last week. According to the National Weather Service, much of Iowa received rain on Sunday, May 9, with the southeastern corner of the state receiving a welcomed 2-plus inches. Severe drought conditions came in at 7.62%, unchanged from last week. Moderate drought conditions are also unchanged at 29.23%. Abnormally dry conditions dropped about 15% from last week to 26.71%.

Minnesota: Minnesota is experiencing far less severe drought conditions than the states immediately to its west. Minnesota’s drought conditions are unchanged from last week. Just 0.78% is in severe drought. Moderate drought is at 15.44%, while abnormally dry conditions are at 20.79%. Sixty-three percent of the state is not experiencing drought conditions.

Montana: Other than another small increase in moderate drought, Montana’s drought conditions were relatively unchanged from last week as well. More than 15% of the state is in extreme drought. Severe drought consists of 18.26%, while 32.65% is under a moderate drought. That is up from 30.39% last week. Abnormally dry conditions cover 21.01% of the state, with just 12.37% of the state not experiencing any drought conditions.

Nebraska: Nebraska’s drought conditions varied slightly from last week. The state saw a slight increase in moderate drought, now at 21.88% of the state compared to 21.26% last week. Abnormally dry conditions decreased about 1.5% to 37.49%. Currently, 40.63% of the state is not experiencing drought conditions. All of those totals are a big improvement from three months ago when nearly 25% was under severe drought and an additional 21% was under moderate drought.

North Dakota: North Dakota’s totals were unchanged from last week. Extreme drought is at 84.98%, severe drought is at 8.01%, moderate drought conditions came in at 4.85%, and abnormally dry conditions at 2.16%. The entire state is experiencing drought conditions.

South Dakota: South Dakota also saw no change in drought levels. Severe drought conditions currently sit at 20.73%, with severe drought at 14.3%, moderate drought at 30.32% and abnormally dry conditions at 27.84%.

Wisconsin: Drought conditions are also unchanged in Wisconsin. Acres experiencing no drought are at 57.9% this week. Abnormally dry conditions came in at 15.91%, with moderate drought conditions at 26.19%.