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Recent rains improve Drought Monitor in portions of North Dakota, north-central remains dry

More moisture needed

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Recent rains have improved conditions in parts of the state that had previously dismal designations by U.S. Drought Monitor. Further drought improvement may be indicated in next week’s issuance of the Drought Monitor too. Thursday’s weekly issuance said “late precipitation 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 to drought conditions were noted in this week’s Drought Monitor, particularly in the southwest part of the state. That region, along with northwest South Dakota, saw significant rainfall recently. According to the Drought Monitor, “Improvements to the severe and extreme drought conditions were made based upon reanalysis of data.”

“Improvement is the trend we are on,” said Allen Schlag, National Weather Service hydrologist in Bismarck. “Another round of moisture will most likely see improvement in next week’s Drought Monitor. While the long-term outlook remains unchanged, the reality is that we’ve received more moisture than was expected by those outlooks. The pendulum has started to swing the other direction.”

Much of central and northern parts of the 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 will be welcome in the region, the extremely dry conditions may need several rain events to see significant improvement.

“The reality is, a single rainstorm is not supposed to be a drought buster, so to speak,” stated Schlag. “We’d really like to see enough rain to improve sub-soil moisture and stream flows. Those are good indicators.”

A contributing factor to drought conditions, other than much less than usual rainfall, has been several days of higher than normal temperatures, a trend that forecasters favor to continue through the summer months.

“Warmer than normal temperatures dominated from California to the Dakotas with departures of 9-12 degrees above normal and even higher in the northern Plains,” concluded the Drought Monitor in its weekly assessment.

Schlag noted that while rain has improved drought conditions in some areas of the state, it may be too late in the season for several counties mired in “exceptional” drought to fully benefit from additional moisture, namely pasture and haylands. Studies have shown that 75% of grass production occurs prior to July 4.

“We’re getting late along in the growing season,” stated Schlag. “We’ve missed out on a good portion of grass production and there’s no making it up. A lot of grasses have headed-out and, once that happens, it doesn’t get any taller. From that standpoint, it does not matter one bit how wet we are between now and July 4.”

Current short-term weather outlooks issued by the Climate Prediction Center call for above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for all of North Dakota through June 23.

The long-range outlook for June-July-August, issued May 20, is for above-normal temperatures for North Dakota through the entire period with below-normal precipitation favored for the western half of the state. The CPC is scheduled to issue an updated three-month outlook next Thursday.

The long-term average rainfall for June, historically the region’s wettest month, is 3.58 inches. Minot’s rainfall total for June through Thursday morning of this week was 0.13 inches.

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