Mother Nature’s latest blast of late-summer heat continues to bake the Corn Belt, and as eyes turn back to the drought, many are left wondering how much longer this "flash drought" will last.
According to the latest Drought Monitor, drought conditions across much of the Corn Belt are quickly intensifying. More than 40 percent of Iowa is now in severe or worse drought, up from 32 percent reported last week.
Wisconsin also saw major drought progression as it soared from 6.5 percent in severe to exceptional drought to 18 percent. Just how dry is it? According Anthony Artusa, the author of this week’s Drought Monitor, since July 1, La Crosse, Wis., has received only 2.4 inches of rain, marking the driest July 1-Sept. 10 period on record for that location.
In Missouri, 17 percent of the state is in severe or worse drought. While it’s five percentage points higher than last week’s report, it pales in comparison to the 98 percent reported this time last year. However, one climatologist with the University of Missouri Extension advises that while intense, this year’s so-called "flash drought" in the Corn Belt brings better news than the 2012 drought.
“Last year, the drought covered much of the central United States. And it lasted longer,” Pat Guinan with the University of Missouri Extension said.
Bill Wiebold, another expert with the University of Missouri Extension, explained that it’s hard to overlook the effects of the drought. And while better than last year, the region is missing one major player – Hurricane Isaac. In September 2012, Hurricane Isaac drenched several Corn Belt states, denting the drought and helping save some crop yields.
“That help will not arrive in 2013. Late-planted corn and soybean fields will suffer the most damage. Unfortunately, the wet spring caused many fields to be planted late,” Wiebold warns in an article available here. “Because drought stress occurred during mid to late summer, the yield component affected most will be seed size. Small corn kernels result in low test weights. Small soybean seeds may not affect test weight, but clearly reduce yields.”
Meanwhile, monsoon moisture has barely dented the drought in New Mexico and Colorado, where 97 percent and 93 percent of the state are in moderate or worse drought. However, with flooding in both states expected to persist, an improvement in drought conditions could be seen as early as next week’s report.
Further to the west, drought conditions refuse to budge. Drought conditions in California, Nevada, Oregon and Idaho were unchanged for yet another week.
Unfortunately, the short-term outlook for the Corn Belt drought doesn't appear to include any drought-breaking rain.In the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook, drought conditions are expected to persist across the Corn Belt and West throughout September.
However, long-term relief could be on the way. In the Seasonal Drought Outlook, drought is forecast to be removed in the Corn Belt by the end of November.