Moisture was mixed bag through the Plains

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. (Map courtesy of NDMC.)

The central third of the contiguous United States saw a mix of improvements and degradations, based on where heavier precipitation did or did not fall and where dry and windy conditions continued.

Parts of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, the Michigan Lower Peninsula, southern Missouri and southeast Kansas saw improving conditions after heavier rains fell there. Meanwhile, moderate drought expanded in northwest Missouri. It also expanded in portions of west-central Wisconsin, Minnesota, northwest Iowa, the far southern Michigan Upper Peninsula and far northeast Wisconsin.

Much of Texas remained the same, with a few degradations in the southeast corner and several degradations in central and southern Texas where long-term drought conditions are still causing impacts. Recent dryness and warm and windy weather in northwest Oklahoma and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles led to abnormal dryness developing there.

Short-term dryness and high evaporative demand led to large areas of degrading conditions in northeast Wyoming, while west-central Wyoming, north-central Colorado, northeast Utah, western Montana, and the northern Idaho Panhandle all saw areas of improvement due to lower evaporative demand and improving snowpack recently.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. (Map courtesy of NDMC.)


Rainfall amounts this week in the South region varied widely. In western Oklahoma, south Texas, and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles, the weather was mostly dry. In north-central Texas, portions of Louisiana and Arkansas, central and southern Mississippi, and south-central Tennessee, rainfall accumulations of 1-2 inches occurred, with locally higher amounts.

Much of the central and eastern part of the region saw above-normal temperatures, with readings commonly falling into the 2 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal window. In western Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle, temperatures were generally closer to normal. Most readings falling somewhere between 4 degrees cooler than normal and 4 degrees warmer than normal.

Recent rainfall improved streamflows and precipitation deficits enough to result in improvements in south-central and southeast Tennessee, . Farther west in west-central and northwest Tennessee and adjacent east-central Arkansas, abnormally dry conditions expanded. Short-term precipitation deficits paired with high evaporative demand and lowering streamflow remain.

Abnormal dryness expanded and moderate drought developed where recent dryness and high evaporative demand combined with decreasing soil moisture and streamflow numbers in southeast Texas and nearby southwest Louisiana. Central Texas experienced recent localized dryness occurred on top of long-term dryness and drought, which combined with very low streamflow in many locations to lead to expansion of drought and abnormal dryness areas.

The northeast Texas Panhandle and adjacent Oklahoma Panhandle and northwest Oklahoma had dry weather over the last couple of months. Combined with high evaporative demand that led to the development of abnormal dryness. In these areas, wildfires have been common.


Warmer-than-normal temperatures occurred across the entire Midwest region. Compared to normal, the warmest areas were in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where temperatures mostly ranged from 4 to 12 degrees above normal, with locally warmer readings. Locally heavy rain (over 2 inches in some locations) fell in central and southwest Missouri, while rain also occurred in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

A few areas of precipitation occurred in Iowa and southern Wisconsin, but northern Iowa, central and northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were mostly dry. In central and southwest Missouri, streamflow and short-term precipitation deficits improved enough for some improvements to ongoing moderate and severe drought and abnormal dryness.

In northwest Missouri, where precipitation was mostly absent, continued dry, warm and windy weather combined with lowering soil moisture and streamflow led to expansions of moderate drought. Low snowpack, decreasing soil moisture and dry and warm weather from the last couple months led to expansions in moderate drought in west-central Wisconsin; northeast Wisconsin and the southern Michigan Upper Peninsula; northeast, south-central and southwest Minnesota; and northwest Iowa.

High Plains

Eastern parts of the High Plains region were mostly warmer than normal this week, with temperatures 8 to 10 degrees above normal occurring in the eastern Dakotas. Colder-than-normal weather occurred in western Wyoming and parts of Colorado.

Localized heavy rains from severe thunderstorms occurred in parts of central and southeast Kansas, leading to localized improvements to ongoing drought and abnormal dryness.

South-central and southwest Kansas, experienced abnormal dryness developed where dry weather from the past couple of months were combined with warm and windy conditions. That is similar to those experienced in northwest Oklahoma and parts of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

Localized improvements were made to an area of abnormal dryness after a major snowstorm struck an area in Nebraska. Recent dry, warm and windy weather led to a small expansion of abnormal dryness in northeast Nebraska and far southeast South Dakota.

Recent dry, warm and windy weather led to expansions of abnormal dryness and moderate and severe drought in northeast Wyoming and adjacent southwest South Dakota. Recent snowpack improvements in the Wyoming Range of west-central Wyoming and in the Never Summer and Medicine Bow Mountains of northern Colorado led to improvements to ongoing abnormal dryness in both areas.

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Portions of central and southeast Montana were 3 to 6 degrees above normal. In western Montana and northern Idaho, recently improved snowpack and lessening precipitation deficits led to several improvements to ongoing drought and abnormally dry conditions

Due to low evaporative demand and improved long-term precipitation deficits, northeast Utah saw reduced coverage of abnormal dryness this week.

Looking ahead

According to forecasts from the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center, heavy snowfall is forecast in the Colorado Front Range area near the beginning of the forecast period (March 14 to 15). Heavy precipitation with this storm system is also likely across other parts of the Four Corners states.

Aside from portions of the Four Corners states, much of the West is likely to stay dry through Monday evening. Farther east, through Monday evening, half an inch (or more) of precipitation is forecast from central Nebraska eastward into parts of the Rust Belt.

Rainfall amounts of a half inch to 2 inches, with locally higher amounts, is also forecast from central Texas eastward through southeast Oklahoma, Arkansas and southeast Missouri to most of Georgia and Tennessee and southern Kentucky.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center six- to 10-day forecast favors near-normal precipitation or above-normal precipitation across the contiguous U.S., covering the period from March 19 to 23. The highest confidence areas for above-normal precipitation include the Arizona and New Mexico border northward through Montana.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are favored across parts of the West, especially in Utah, Nevada, California, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and in parts of the central and southern Great Plains.

Below-normal temperatures are favored from central Montana eastward through North Dakota and northern South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, with below-normal temperatures slightly favored in the Ohio River Valley and Rust Belt.

Curtis Riganti is with the National Drought Mitigation Center.