Drought Conditions Strengthen in Midwest, Eastern Corn Belt


The recent US Drought Monitor shows expanding drought in farm country. Dennis Todey (TODD-ee) is a USDA Meteorologist and director of the Midwest Climate Hub in Ames, Iowa. He says several areas in rural America are getting even drier.

“Those are centered on the Great Lakes, from most of Michigan into parts of northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and northern Iowa. And then you get out into the plains, especially the Northern Plains, including most of North Dakota, eastern Montana, and northern South Dakota are in quite bad situations. That’s the area of the worst concern. That eastern (Corn Belt) area is a problem right now as we have some dry soils at planting, but it’s not a major issue just yet.”

Drought conditions in the Eastern Corn Belt only began building a few months ago. However, areas like North and South Dakota, which are some of the hardest-hit locations so far, began drying out in the summer of 2020.

“The problems in the Dakotas, those carry well into last year, where we had dry conditions last fall and even some dryness started last summer, and they have gotten progressively worse, especially a good chunk of North Dakota where they’ve had minimal precipitation. Depending on the time frame you’re looking at, part of North Dakota has had its driest six-month period on record for those six months in their history. So, that’s been the worst developing one so far.”

Most of the recent rainfall activity in the U.S. has swung south of the Upper Midwest.

“The jet stream has stayed a little bit south of us, so most of the rainfall has been more in parts of eastern Nebraska, part of Kansas, and eastward from there. That I-70 and south area has had the better precipitation amounts more recently. There are some dry areas in the eastern part of the Corn Belt in that southern area, but they’re not quite as bad yet. We’ve had a few systems that have been able to work their way further north into northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, so it’s better in their situation.”

He says there isn’t a lot of relief in sight for some of these drought-stricken areas.

“There certainly is for the eastern part of the Corn Belt. There are some more precipitation chances later this week. The six-to-ten-day and the eight-to-14-day are leaning toward some chances for precipitation in that eastern area; not huge, but a near-to-better-than-average. So, we have some chances to help that situation. That Northern Plains area is the problem one right now because their peak average precipitation time of the year is right about now or toward the end of May. And right now, they have some near-to-slightly-below-normal chances for precipitation. So, this is kind of a last opportunity to get any help in that area, and then chances start to fall off after that.”