February’s snow totals across the Plains are staggering, with some areas having reported more than 20 inches of snow from back-to-back winter storms. Despite the welcomed snow, the drought continues to persist.
Nationally, drought conditions are improving slightly. According to the latest Drought Monitor report released Thursday morning, 53 percent of the contiguous United States is in moderate or worse drought, down from 56 percent two weeks ago.
Some of the hardest-hit states, namely Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, bore the brunt of the winter storms. But, even then, there is a long ways to go.
As CNN Meteorologist Dave Hennen told WQAD News, snowfall is “definitely a benefit, but not a drought-buster.”
What these areas covered in drought needed was a foot of rain, not snow.
The Drought Monitor map shows just how little the storms did for the Plains:
- Nebraska: Drought conditions this week remain virtually unchanged from last week’s minimal improvement. Ninety-six percent remain in extreme or worse drought, making it the driest states across all 50 states.
- Kansas: Snow is still melting across the state, but it has done little to replenish soil moisture. Improvements made last week were short-lived. Seventy percent of the Sunflower State is still in extreme to exceptional drought, unchanged from the last report.
- Oklahoma: The Sooner State was one of the few states to report a change in drought conditions. Ten percent of the state is in exceptional drought, down from 12 percent last week.
The drought has also increased in other key agriculture states, including Iowa and Minnesota. To see how your state is doing, click here.
In Minnesota, where just 25 percent of the state is in extreme drought, officials have warned that “even flooding at this point won’t alleviate a drought.”
Despite the grim news, the Climate Prediction Center had one piece of good news: an improving drought outlook. The latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, released on March 7, noticed some improved for some areas in the northern Plains and western Corn Belt.
The Outlook reported, “regarding the large area of extreme to exceptional drought in the Nation's midsection, precipitation normals increase significantly later in the forecast period, and precipitation then will be the primary driving factor behind the Drought Monitor depiction for the end of May. Still, with significant precipitation forecast in parts of the central and upper Plains through mid-March - on top of the rain and snow observed in late February - it seems likely that at least some surface moisture increases will be observed. Therefore, some improvement was forecast for much of the northern half of the Plains. With only one month of the wet season included in this forecast period, more substantial, longer-term improvement is unlikely.