Drought Monitor map released on March 14, 2013.
Drought Monitor map released on March 14, 2013.

Could the worst drought in 50 years finally be showing signs of weakness? Thanks to a burst of rain and snow in many Crop Belt states, the drought is finally showing some signs of improvement.

Currently, 51 percent of the Lower 48 is in moderate or worse drought, and though it may be far-fetched to applaud half of the country still in the grips of drought, it is still welcomed progress. According to the latest Drought Monitor report released Thursday morning, the last time 51 percent of the nation reported moderate to exceptional drought was in June 2012.

Improvement or, in some cases, shifting drought conditions, were noted in states most affected by the drought:

  • Kansas: Rain over the weekend wasn’t a drought buster, but as a result of the welcomed moisture, 65 percent of the Sunflower State is now in extreme or worse drought. This is down considerably from last week’s report of 70 percent. The biggest story in the state is that moderate drought as returned to eastern portions of the state – moderate drought, one of the lowest levels reported by the National Climate Center, was last reported here in July.
  • Nebraska: The Cornhusker State has been blanketed by dark hues of red and maroon on the Drought Monitor report since early fall, but February’s impressive snowfall totals helped move drought conditions slightly lower. More moisture last week has helped to push drought conditions slightly lower. Extreme drought conditions in the state dropped by less than 1 percentage point to 76 percent.
  •  South Dakota: Of all the states, South Dakota has reported the biggest shift in conditions. Exceptional drought dropped by 10 percentage points to 20 percent, and as a result, extreme drought conditions, one level of intensity lower, increased by 13 percentage points to 47 percent.
  • Oklahoma: The Sooner State is split nearly in half by drought conditions. Overall, 57 percent of Oklahoma is in extreme or worse drought, down from 62 percent last week.  However, the western half of the state is bearing most of the extreme and exceptional drought. The eastern portion is dominated by moderate to severe drought instead.

See how your state is doing here.

So while the drought is far from ending, it is shifting in the right direction. March has come in as a lion for many key agricultural states, and producers can only hope that the wetter weather pattern will keep up.

According to Bloomberg, AccuWeather senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok suggests that the wetter weather may stick around for awhile and aid with upcoming crop planting.

“The weather pattern is more favorable than last year, when warm, dry weather from March to August wilted crops,” Pastelok said in a telephone interview. “We expect ample moisture during most of the growing season from southern Texas to New York.”  

Pastelok also warned that there will likely be a few hot and dry periods in June and July for parts of the Plains, including Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota and parts of Iowa and Minnesota.

Read more here.