January 2013 turned out to be a typical January for temperature and precipitation, says Harry Hillaker, state climatologist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. "When all was said and done, January 2013 was fairly normal for precipitation," he says. "Iowa was on a pace to have an extremely dry January, up until about the last five days of the month. Then we got some rain and snow."
Does this mean the drought that has carried over from last year into this year is ending? It's too early to guess. Hillaker says the real sign as to whether or not the drought is ending will come in March and April. If we start getting regular spring rains in March, the drought pattern will ease. But it will take continued good rains this spring to break the drought which so far is still continuing into 2013.
Dry weather persists for farmers in western Corn Belt and Great Plains states
While drought no longer dominates headlines, it remains a serious concern for farmers across the Plains states and the western Midwest. Dry weather conditions persist and, with only light showers and snowfall on the immediate horizon for dry areas west of the Mississippi River, farmers in those states will likely encounter fields suffering from depleted subsoil moisture when planting begins across the central U.S. in about 10 weeks.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"Once temperatures drop, public attention shifts away from the drought conditions that persist," observes Pam Johnson, president of the National Corn Growers Association. She farms with her family in northeast Iowa. "News stories have begun speaking of the drought of 2012 as if it were in the past," she adds. "But for many farmers, the drought has not ended and there is no relief in sight. While facing the possibility of another dry year, farmers must focus on advocating for the risk management tools that they need by pushing their U.S. Senators and Representatives in Washington, D.C. to pass a new five-year farm bill."
Forecasts from a variety of sources indicate that dry weather may impact many farmers for the foreseeable future. "The Plains and the northwest Midwest will still struggle with drought, there's not a whole lot of relief seen," says John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitor.
Over half of the United States is still in at least moderate drought conditions
The U.S. drought monitor, capturing conditions through January 22, indicated roughly 57.6% of the U.S. was in at least moderate drought. While this does show an improvement from 58.9% a week earlier, a large percentage of the western Corn Belt remains in severe to exceptional drought.
Iowa's state climatologist Harry Hillaker sees hardly any moisture benefit for the Western Corn Belt coming in the final few weeks of winter. Iowa and other states west of the Mississippi River is where climatologists are now focusing. That's the driest area. The eastern Corn Belt has received some relief with rains last fall. "Even if we do get precipitation in February in these driest states in the western Corn Belt, it mostly runs off as the ground is still frozen," notes Hillaker.
To see the most recent U.S. drought monitor map, updated as of Thursday, January 30, follow this link. The National Corn Growers Association also offers a drought news resource center.