North Dakota leaves severe drought status, while South Dakota has land still in extreme drought

North Dakota has finally left severe drought status due to the spring storm events. However, parts of South Dakota are still in extreme drought status and are in need of moisture.

While North Dakota's worst drought status now is moderate drought, areas of South Dakota are still in extreme drought status. Photo taken in June of 2021 in Ellendale, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek
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Severe drought has plagued the upper Midwest and northern Plains since late 2020. Farmers and ranchers have been forced to make difficult decisions to keep their operations going. However, the spring storms in April may have been the drastic weather event the area needed to bring soil moisture back to good standings.

North Dakota, especially the western part of the state, have been in the worst of the drought conditions. Those acres received very little rainfall, if any at all. However, the whole state of North Dakota can finally breathe a sigh of relief, including the western part of North Dakota.

“Actually North Dakota is not in D2 anymore, it is not in severe drought. It was gone this week with the publication of the new drought monitor map,” Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota State University Extension state climatologist, said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released on May 26 showed North Dakota with 5.86% of the state in moderate drought and 12.9% considered abnormally dry. The vast majority — 81.25% — has no drought conditions.

South Dakota however, specifically the western part of the state, has not received the snow or rainfall that accumulated in North Dakota. Due to this, there are still some areas in South Dakota that are in severe drought.


“We then have the area in west central South Dakota that’s in D3 or extreme drought situation and has really been suffering for now going on the third year in a row, the third growing season in a row,” Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension state climatologist, said.

The May 26 Drought Monitor still had 4.27% of South Dakota in extreme drought, with 19.67% in severe drought, 34.68% in moderate drought and 14.52% considered abnormally dry. The 26.86% of the state considered to be in no drought conditions was in the far east and the northeast.

There are some areas in both North Dakota as well as South Dakota where standing water is present and the soil is too wet for planting to begin. While this has become an added stress for farmers who wish to get their acres planted, Akyuz says that the excessive rainfall and snowfall was crucial to bringing North Dakota out of severe drought status. In addition, the moisture will help producers if the rainfall does stop in the coming months.

“Looking at the soil profile and looking at some of the fields that have overland flooding and the ponds are pretty much rejuvenated, soil moisture is at the highest level. It is going to be very difficult, even though the rains may stop, we have enough moisture in the soil to get us through spring time,” he said.

This is the second La Nina summer which is a rarity. According to Edwards, the La Nina is the driving force behind the warmer and drier pattern the region has been experiencing.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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