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Moisture levels show significant change throughout Southwest over 24 months

This time last year Southwest farmers were already running irrigation systems full throttle to keep up with diminishing soil water supplies and to maintain growth rates on spring-planted cotton, corn, peanuts and grain sorghum. Much of intended dryland cotton acreage was either not planted or abandoned because of severe drought.

Most of what little wheat was available for harvest had been cut or was almost ready to.

Pastures were drying up. Hay was in short supply. Cattlemen were selling lightweight calves because they had too little feed or water to take them through summer.

One year later and a 180-degree direction change finds farmers unable to harvest wheat because of soggy fields, high humidity and grain on the ground. Cotton acres show delayed maturity because of late planting, low heat unit accumulation and hailed-out do-overs. Some corn has been waterlogged and stunted. Grain sorghum shows erratic progress because of widely varied planting dates and few farmers have had to rely on irrigation systems.

Texas recorded the ninth wettest May on record. Other Southwestern states show similar rainfall accumulations and June figures, which are not yet available, likely will push moisture accumulations significantly above normal for much of the region.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather maps show a significant change in the region’s moisture index over the last two years.

A 24-month overview shows most of the Southwest ranging from moderately dry to abnormally moist. But most of that moisture has accumulated in the last six months or so. Maps show Texas dry for the past two years over much of the eastern half of the state with moisture closer to normal or a bit above to the West and into the Panhandle.

Similar conditions show up in Oklahoma. Kansas has been abnormally moist to moderately moist over the last 24 months. New Mexico shows abnormally moist to moderately moist conditions through most of the center of the state with near normal conditions to the East and West and abnormally dry in the North Central area.

From June 2006 through May 2007, the precipitation index shows no area in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico or Kansas with below normal precipitation. The range runs from near normal to exceptionally moist.

The May, 2007, map indicates a significant part of Texas as extremely moist (1.60 to 1.99 inches above normal). Most of the Texas High Plains falls in the moderately moist range (.80 to 1.29 inches above normal). Kansas conditions vary from moderately dry (1.29 to .80 inches below normal) to exceptionally moist (2 inches or more above normal precipitation). Most of Oklahoma is moderately moist. New Mexico is moderately moist to extremely moist.

A map of the Southeast, into Alabama and Mississippi and up through the Carolinas and Virginia, shows the last 24 months as moderately dry to exceptionally dry (2 inches or more below normal).

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