Drought continues throughout Nebraska and surrounding area
Drought continues over the entire state of Nebraska and surrounding areas. However, recent moisture brought on by the active weather pattern, with several fronts and storm systems traversing the lower 48 States, brought welcome precipitation to much of the nation, and particularly the Plains.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released on April 9, 15 percent of the state including about 20 percent of Furnas County (southwest corner), was in exceptional (D4) drought. This means that 85 percent of Nebraska and 80 percent of Furnas County is still in extreme (D3) drought. Last week, prior to the moisture event on April 8 to 9, 75 percent of Nebraska and all of Furnas County was in exceptional D4 drought.
In the Plains region, beneficial, soaking rains finally fell on badly needed D2, D3, and D4 drought areas of hard-hit Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. In Texas, 1 to 3 inches of rain was measured in north-central, central, and southeastern Texas, providing a one category improvement for many areas. Unfortunately, little or no rain was observed in western and extreme southern Texas, and some degradation was made. In Oklahoma, a large band of heavy rain (2 to 5 inches) fell from central to southeastern parts of the state, resulting in a one-category improvement. Most other areas of the state received enough precipitation (0.5 to 1.5 inches) to maintain conditions. Kansas was unfortunately left out of the heavy rains, with most stations reporting under 0.5 inches. In extreme northeastern Kansas, however, a small band of heavier rain (1.5 to 2.5 inches) was enough to diminish deficits and ease drought from D2 to D1.
Farther north, long overdue widespread and heavy rains finally fell on much of the north-central plains, especially from southwestern Nebraska northeastward into southeastern South Dakota. Most locations reported 1.5 to 3 inches of rain, and a significant number of them likely received their greatest 24-hour totals in the past 12 months.
According to Nebraska state climatologist Al Dutcher, even with the April 9 rains, 12-month deficits still stood at: 10.59 inches at North Platte; 9.31 inches at Valentine; 16.59 inches at Broken Bow; and 6.55 inches at Imperial. And it will take substantial additional moisture to improve drought conditions further.
Some reanalysis may occur next week as the full extent of the precipitation associated with this event can be examined. This event was a good start to the northern and central Plains rainy season which normally occurs from April into August.
The conditions can be attributed to the non-stop high temperatures, high winds, high solar radiation, low relative humidity, and lack of precipitation during the summer period beginning May 1, 2012, through last fall.
As taken from the Nebraska Rainfall Assessment and Information Network, the area surrounding Beaver City has received approximately 9.5 inches of precipitation since May 1, 2012, which leaves a deficit of about 12.5 inches for the year.
On April 4, before the recent rain event, Bob Klein, UNL cropping systems specialist, checked the moisture level at the UNL wheat plot. The field of growing, chem-fallow wheat was planted into soybean residue and the field is located approximately 4 miles west of Beaver City. The moisture profile in this field reached a depth of 26 inches. This was determined using a ball tipped probe. On the same day the moisture level in a wheat stubble field (last year’s plot) that was harvested last summer had a moisture level that reached to a depth of 19 inches. It should be noted that at this time of year a full soil moisture profile of at least 48 inches is preferred to be successful in producing a normal dryland corn crop.