Recent rains have improved conditions in parts of the state that previously had grim designations by the US Drought Monitor. Further improvement in drought could also be indicated in next week’s Drought Monitor post. Thursday’s weekly show said “Rainfall late in the period over North Dakota will be addressed next week when the full extent of the rains can be taken into account.”
Still, improvements in drought conditions were noted in this week’s Drought Monitor, particularly in the southwestern part of the state. This region, along with northwestern South Dakota, has recently experienced significant rainfall. According to the Drought Monitor, “Improvements were made to severe and extreme drought conditions based on re-analysis of the data. “
“Improvement is the trend we are on”, said Allen Schlag, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck. “Another wave of humidity will most likely see improvement in next week’s Drought Monitor. While the long-term outlook remains unchanged, the reality is that we have received more moisture than expected by this outlook. The pendulum started to swing the other way.
Much of central and northern state, including most of Ward and adjacent counties, remains mired in “exceptional” drought, the highest designation by the Drought Monitor. While any amount of rain is welcome in the area, the extremely dry conditions may require several episodes of rain to see a significant improvement.
“The reality is that a single rainstorm isn’t meant to be a drought breaker, so to speak” Schlag said. “We would really like to see enough rain to improve basement humidity and stream flow. These are good indicators.
A contributing factor to the drought conditions, other than precipitation well below usual precipitation, has been several days of above normal temperatures, a trend forecasters prefer to continue through the summer months.
“Warmer than normal temperatures dominated from California to the Dakotas with variations of 9 to 12 degrees above normal and even higher in the northern plains,” The Drought Monitor concluded in its weekly review.
Schlag noted that although the rain improved drought conditions in parts of the state, it could be too late in the season for several mired counties in “exceptional” drought to take full advantage of the extra moisture, namely pastures and hay meadows. Studies have shown that 75% of weed production takes place before July 4th.
“We are late in the growing season”, Schlag said. “We’ve missed a lot of the weed production and we can’t make up for it. Lots of herbs came out and once that happens they don’t get any taller. From that point of view, it doesn’t matter how wet we get by July 4th. “
The current short-term weather forecast released by the Climate Prediction Center projects above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for all of North Dakota through June 23.
The long-term outlook for June-July-August, released on May 20, is for above normal temperatures for North Dakota throughout the period, with below normal precipitation for the western half of the state. The CPC is expected to issue a three-month outlook update next Thursday.
The long-term average precipitation for June, historically the region’s wettest month, is 3.58 inches. Minot’s total precipitation from June to Thursday morning this week was 0.13 inches.