As planters begin to roll in the Midwest and rain in the Plains is falling short for the wheat crop, the latest seasonal drought outlook report expects improved drought in the southern High Plains and southern Texas and continued intense drought in much of the West.
The seasonal drought update, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and prepared by forecaster Richard Tinker, follows the U.S. drought situation into July 31, 2015.
The seasonal drought report shows that dryness and drought intensified across the central Rockies and eastern Great Basin, the central and northern Plains, and parts of both the Northeast and Southeast.
Dryness expanded also along the Ohio and lower Mississippi Rivers eastward, and drought was limited to part of the Gulf Coast and southern Florida, Tinker wrote, though moisture is expected to eliminate drought in the area by mid-summer.
In the northern Plains through the Great Lakes region, drought is expected to stick around and even expand in Michigan and perhaps Wisconsin and Illinois, Tinker wrote. "Odds favor subnormal May-July precipitation there, and climatologically soil moisture content declines more often than it increases," he said.
Drought may also expand later in the summer in the northern Plains, perhaps by the end of July, the report said.
In the already drought-stricken Southwest, more precipitation is expected starting in May and moving through July, but it isn't likely to eradicate or limit drought in some areas, specifically south-central Nebraska and eastern Kansas. Part of western Oklahoma and adjacent Texas and much of the southern half of the Rockies is also included in this assessment.
Across the West Coast states, especially California and western Nevada, drought will stick around as higher temperatures and seasonal dryness approaches, Tinker explained.
This week's USDA crop progress and condition report had corn planting at 9%, ahead of last year's 6% but behind the 13% average.
Topsoil moisture was plentiful in the Midwest and Southeast and much improved in the central and southern Plains wheat states.
Iowa was 86% adequate to surplus, Illinois 92%, while Kansas jumped to 58% from 44%, Nebraska went to 68% from 53%, Oklahoma to 61% from 42% and Texas to 66% from 65%.
North Dakota, where spring wheat is being planted, registered 63% adequate to surplus topsoil moisture.
See the NOAA website for the full seasonal drought outlook assessment.