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Concern grows for widespread drought this summer

U.S. Drought Monitor U.S .Drought Monitor map
VERY DRY: Eric Snodgrass said more than 60% of the U.S. is experiencing some level of drought as evidenced by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Currently, 63% of the U.S. is experiencing some level of drought.

Although a lot can happen between now and July, Eric Snodgrass, principal atmospheric scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, said he is very concerned about widespread drought in the U.S. this summer.

“I rarely go out on a limb like this, but I am more concerned than normal about drought east of the Rockies,” he said. “A drought is already set for west of the Rockies.”

Snodgrass spoke about the climate and weather trends that will influence spring planting and affect the 2021 growing season during a Professional Dairy Producers webcast on April 14.

According to Snodgrass, 63% of the U.S. is currently experiencing some level of drought, as evidenced by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“With over 60% of the country in drought now, you can understand our concern,” he said. “But I won’t know until mid-June which way it will go in July, August and September.”

Snodgrass said parts of California and much of the southwest including Colorado, Utah, Arizona and most of Texas are exceptionally dry. North Dakota has experienced the driest six months on record. Rains in March and the first half of April helped alleviate dry conditions in Nebraska and Iowa.

“But California did not get much rain in March and they missed out on rain through the first half of April,” he noted. “California’s wet season this year is the driest in 40 years.”

April rains

Snodgrass said Wisconsin received some much-needed rain the weekend of April 10-11. He predicts more rain on April 20. He said cool temperatures, 5 to 10 degrees below normal, will continue in Wisconsin through April 24.

“I think it breaks after April 24 with warmer temperatures.”

Snodgrass is predicting above-normal temperatures in the Dairy State in May and June. Along with the warmer temperatures, he is also predicting more rain in May and June.

Snodgrass said Wisconsin is receiving on average 1½ inches more in total precipitation during April and May than the Dairy State received during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

He also warned there will be more severe weather in 2021 throughout the country.

“The South has already been hit hard this spring with severe weather including numerous tornadoes and heavy rain. They had 6 to 8 inches of rain in parts of the South in the first half of April.”

Snodgrass said the excessive moisture is causing a major delay in corn planting in southern states including Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, which is impacting grain markets.

Snodgrass said our highest yielding crop years happen when the ocean waters off the coast of Washington state, Oregon and California are warm in mid-June.

“If the West Coast ocean waters are cold, we’ll likely see a hot and dry July, August and September in much of the U.S.,” he said. “Our long-range models aren’t clear, and a lot can happen between now and then.”

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