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Region is still not 'charged with moisture' but a mid-October change might be coming

STORMTracker meteorologist John Wheeler says the next two weeks are expected to remain above average in temperature and relatively dry. But he sees a change coming around mid October.

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Even though lawns have greened up and the agricultural population of the Northern Plains has moved into harvest season, meaning drier conditions are generally welcomed, the drought remains, STORMTracker meteorologist John Wheeler says.

That's because all of the factors that go into the U.S. Drought Monitor have not cleared up with recent rains. That includes lake and river levels, deep soil moisture profiles, water needs and more.

"It means a lot of things," he said. "What this basically means is, we're not charged with moisture."

A dry winter would mean another moisture deficit for next year in many places, he said.

It has, however, returned closer to normal in northeastern South Dakota and some other areas of the Red River Valley. However, other areas, particularly to the east and south, have gotten drier. That includes, the Drought Monitor says, portions of Iowa and southern Wisconsin.


The next two weeks are expected to be warmer than normal and generally dry, though Wheeler noted that lower evaporation rates in the fall mean that won't have as big of an impact as warmer, drier weather in the summer.

But come the middle of October, he sees a change coming.

"Right around the middle part of October, we'll start seeing cooler weather coming into the Northern Plains," he said.

That might mean a chance for more precipitation, too.

"Might be a good idea to get going on harvest season," he said. "It's possible the second half of October may turn a little bit wet here in the Northern Plains."

Here's a state-by-state look at this week's U.S. Drought Monitor:

Iowa: Severe drought nearly doubled in Iowa this week, from 9.6% to 18.26%. More than three-quarters of the state now is considered abnormally dry or worse.

Minnesota: Minnesota's drought conditions remained identical to last week's. The state remains 93.5% in abnormally dry conditions or worse.


Montana: Drought continues to intensify in Montana, where 100% of land is now considered to be in severe drought or worse. The portion of the state in exceptional drought increased from 20.37% to 21.91%.

Nebraska: Nebraska's drought situation worsened slightly this week, with the percentage of the state in severe drought creeping up from 14.12% to 15%. The state has 85.11% of land considered abnormally dry or worse.

North Dakota: North Dakota saw a little backslide after several weeks of improvement, with the percentage of the state in extreme drought going from 51.9% to 58.19%. Despite recent improvements, 99.76% of the state remains abnormally dry or worse, with 92.08% being in severe drought or worse.

South Dakota: South Dakota's percentage of severe drought crept up slightly this week, from 47.03% to 48.45%. The state remains 92.94% abnormally dry or worse.

Wisconsin: While 68.42% of Wisconsin remains out of any drought conditions, some portions of the state did see deteriorating conditions this week. Extreme drought went from 0.14% to 0.8%, and severe drought went from 3.38% to 5.34%.

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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