Drought conditions persist in North Dakota

So dry, so long

Too dry for too long is the story that continues to emerge throughout the state. Not even recent thunderstorms, some dumping 2-3 inches of rain or more, have improved the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor’s assessment for North Dakota.

One of the reasons why, according to the Drought Monitor issued Thursday, is that “weekly temperatures averaged as much as 10 degrees above-normal from the interior Northwest to the northern High Plains.” North Dakota has seen several days of 100 degree or higher temperatures at several locations recently. A 110 degree reading was reported in eastern Montana on July 19.

The most recent Drought Monitor shows a slight increase in the severity of drought conditions throughout the state, including 8.2% being rated in “exceptional” drought, the worst possible rating by the Drought Monitor. Nearly half the state is still considered to be in “extreme” drought, classified as a conditions when “crops stop growing, pastures go dormant, and emergency haying of conservation areas is authorized.”

While Ward County is considered to be roughly two-thirds extreme drought and the remainder exceptional drought, it is McHenry County, immediately east of Ward, that is the epicenter of drought conditions in the state. It is the only county considered to be completely in the exceptional drought category. Other counties with substantial areas of exceptional drought are McLean, Sheridan and Pierce.

While some cattlemen in drought stricken areas have been culling their herds due to poor pasture growth, the Drought Monitor concludes that “agricultural drought impacts across the northern High Plains remains widespread and severe, despite spotty showers.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rated 86% of North Dakota as being “very short to short” of topsoil moisture. And, on July 18, North Dakota topped the nation in crop futility in oats, 50% rated very poor to poor; soybeans, 41% rated very poor to poor; and corn, 32% rated very poor to poor.

Estimates released by the USDA earlier this month concluded that U.S. spring wheat production will be down 41% from a year ago due to widespread drought conditions. It also rated just 11% of the U.S. spring wheat crop good to excellent and 63% very poor to poor, the lowest overall condition since July 1988.

The Drought Monitor also issued a concern that “flash drought,” a sudden on-set of heat and dry weather, could occur over the plains and further aggravate already dry conditions.


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