Drought expected to ease in most of Western Corn Belt

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 07, 2013

Recent heavy snowfalls were most welcome across the Corn Belt. And, while the eastern Corn Belt states of Ohio, Indiana and southern Illinois are now officially out of the drought, much of the western Corn Belt is still in various levels of drought, according to the March 5 Drought Monitor released today.

As the accompanying map shows, Iowa, southern Minnesota and most of the Western Corn Belt remain in drought, partly due to how the analysts with the Drought Monitor treat winter snowfall.  “Significant precipitation has fallen across Minnesota and Wisconsin during the past 90 days, but most of it is sitting on top of the frozen ground, locked away in the snowpack,” the March 5 report said. “The scenario is the same across much of northeast Iowa, so no changes were made across the entire region.”

Most of the changes in the Great Plains on the weekly Drought Monitor map were made in Texas, where the February was reported to be drier than January. The eastern half of the state has seen some improvement while west and southern Texas continue to be in deep drought.

The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook by the climate prediction center factors in short- and long-range statistical and dynamical forecasts. Its March 7 outlook reaching towards the end of May is showing expected improvement in the eastern third of Iowa and Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The western half of Minnesota and Iowa along with North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and western Missouri are classified as “drought ongoing, some improvement,” while Kansas down to Texas and states further west are expected to see persistent or intensifying drought conditions.

With the eastern Corn Belt officially out of drought and the outlook looking better for the rest of the Corn Belt, it should confirm farmers’ hopes for a better year ahead as they make their plans for the new season.