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Dust Bowl conditions on Plains: problem for U.S. and the world

Wheat crop prospects not good for much of Southwest Driest four-months since Dust Bowl Chance of appreciable rain is slim reports that following what has been the driest four-month period since before the 1930s Dust Bowl, hope is dwindling, if not already lost, for wheat farmers of Oklahoma and Texas who desperately need rain. The forecast is not looking promising.

Any hits to U.S. agriculture amid rising food and gas prices will only add to the strain on the wallets of families and individuals across the nation and the globe, with the U.S. being the world's largest exporter of wheat and corn.

According to Agricultural Meteorologist Dale Mohler, the percentage of U.S. wheat considered "poor" or "very poor" increased from 32 to 36 in just the past week due to lack of rain in the southern Plains and Southwest.

Reports have even indicated that many wheat farmers have considered switching to another crop altogether this year.

"There will not be much of a crop in western Texas and western Oklahoma," Mohler said, "Now the focus is on Kansas and eastern Oklahoma." Staff Writer Gina Cherundolo said, "Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas combined produce more than half of the nation's winter wheat crop, with Kansas alone producing about a quarter."

Mohler said that while there will be storm systems moving through the Plains over the next two weeks, rainfall may not be widespread enough across the areas that need it most to improve the situation.

"Kansas has been very dry over the last six weeks," Mohler said. "Some of the storms will bring rain, but any improvement may only be temporary."

A storm system set to push through the Plains later this week will bring the next opportunity for rain. Early indications point to areas from north-central and northeastern Kansas into Nebraska and Iowa for the most substantial rainfall, which could be on the order of 0.5 to 1.0 inch with locally higher amounts possible.

Several more storm systems will track across the Plains late this weekend into next week. Eastern parts of Kansas and Oklahoma may benefit from at least one of these storms, while areas farther west may miss out on rainfall of significance.


More on the Drought and Other Impacts


According to the latest release from the U.S. Drought Monitor on April 7, 2011, a severe to extreme drought is affecting a large area from Louisiana and Arkansas to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.

In addition to causing significant crop damage, the drought has also been contributing to an extreme risk of wildfires over the past couple of months, especially from western Texas into Oklahoma and Colorado.

Wildfires in western Texas over this past weekend reportedly scorched more than 230,000 acres and destroyed approximately 80 homes and buildings. The threat of wildfires is likely to remain high across the region through the rest of the spring and summer with drier-than-normal conditions predicted.

The fire danger becomes especially high when storm systems kick up high winds across the area. Gusty wind events tend to be more common during the spring than summer. For much of the rest of this week, areas from New Mexico into western Texas will remain at an elevated risk with gusty winds in the forecast.


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