Recent rains continue to improve drought but soil moisture deficits persist

StormTRACKER meteorologist Jesse Ritka said rain since mid-August has made a big difference in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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What a difference a month makes.

StormTRACKER meteorologist Jesse Ritka said rain since mid-August has made a big difference in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

That's especially the case on the southern side of the Red River Valley in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as into Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Those areas have seen great improvement in soil moisture, she said.

While drought conditions have improved somewhat, the impact of the hot, dry summer remains. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, Sept. 8, announced feed transportation assistance for ranchers in drought areas.

Soil moisture percentile has started worsening again in much of the region, Ritka said, and there's isn't a lot of rain in the forecast for the coming weeks.


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

Iowa: Severe drought in Iowa dropped from 12.61% to 9.34% this week, and the percentage of the state out of drought conditions improved from 28.25% to 30.19%.

Minnesota: Conditions improved slightly in Minnesota this week, with 5.29% of the state now out of drought conditions, compared to 3.38% last week. Percentages of the state in exceptional, extreme and severe drought all lessened slightly.

Montana: Montana showed no change since last week, with the entire state considered in moderate drought or worse and 98.7% in severe drought or worse. According to the USDA, the percentage of topsoil rated short to very short in Montana is 93%.

Nebraska: While more of Nebraska came out of drought conditions this week, a small percentage of the state shifted from moderate to severe drought. Severe drought now covers 13.22% of the state, compared to 10.94% last week.

North Dakota: For the first time in months, a small portion of North Dakota has fallen out of drought conditions. It's a small chunk, though, just 0.24%, with another 0.12% considered abnormally dry. Though the percentage of the state in exceptional and extreme drought shrunk slightly, 99.64% of the state remains in moderate drought or worse.

South Dakota: South Dakota's drought situation improved slightly again, with 5.64% of the state now considered out of drought categories, compared to 1% last week. Every category of drought lessened in the state, with the biggest improvements in the east.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin's drought situation actually worsened a little since last week. Severe drought increased from 1.33% to 4.07%

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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