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Central North Dakota remains in exceptional drought, other areas of state improved

Central ND remains parched

Eloise Ogden/MDN Clouds are the backdrop for these wind turbines shown on Sunday afternoon along U.S. Highway 83. Fields throughout the area are being impacted by the drought and much more rain is needed to change the conditions, weather experts say.

There’s a very small slice of optimism, a tiny sliver of hope, in the latest Drought Briefing issued by the National Weather Service in Bismarck. It may not be much of a change, but in a region mired in “exceptional” drought, any small fraction of possible improvement is notable.

Tuesday’s Drought Briefing raises the possibility, albeit not much, that previously dismal long-range precipitation outlooks are wavering just a bit. While outlooks still favor hotter than usual weather late into this year, there’s a very slight change in the precipitation outlook for the same period.

According to the Drought Briefing, “The precipitation signal is much less consistent” and has “slightly lower odds” for below average precipitation “compared to previous outlooks.” Overall, reads the briefing, “there is some indication of a slightly weaker signal for dry and warm conditions this summer and fall, which would be good news in regards to the potential for drought persisting.”

Don’t look to the skies for any deluge just yet though. The briefing still concludes that “drought is likely to persist through the summer and into the fall, although some areas could see improvement due to summer rains.”

All of Ward County remains in “exceptional” or “extreme” drought. Surrounding counties in the central and northern part of the state are also stuck in exceptional drought conditions, the highest, or worst, rating by the U.S. Drought Monitor. However, recently there has been some improvement in drought conditions elsewhere in the state.

“Recent near normal temperatures and widespread precipitation have helped with deficits, especially in parts of western North Dakota where the percent of normal precipitation is back to around normal”, reads the Drought Briefing.

An example cited is an improvement in soil moisture conditions in the northwest part of the state where substantial amounts of rain has fallen in the past few weeks. In many areas of the state though, much more rainfall is needed to alleviate parched conditions.

According to the Drought Briefing, “Precipitation deficits are still large enough that we need multiple rain events to see a widespread significant change in drought conditions.” The weekly issuance of the U.S. Drought Monitor is scheduled for Thursday.

In the short-term, the weather outlook for North Dakota through July 5 favors warm and dry conditions, meaning many areas that received rainfall recently are likely to see a decline in soil moisture conditions. According to long-range outlooks issued by the Climate Prediction Center, above-normal temperatures are favored for all of North Dakota through November.

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