Parts Of Area Remain In Extreme Drought Despite Snowfall

Northwest Iowa — Last fall’s mild, dry weather allowed many Iowa farmers to harvest their crops in record time, but now those same conditions are causing concern.

Meteorologist Dennis Todey, director of the USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub in Ames, says drought continues to be the biggest worry.

(As above) “We have some very dry soils throughout the Northern Plains into northwest Iowa,” Todey says. “The dry season and dry fall allowed quick access to fields and harvest activity but we didn’t get much recharge, unlike some previous years.” 

The state’s seen some big snowfalls already this winter with more coming this weekend, but with the ground frozen, any snow that falls won’t add much moisture to the soil.

(As above) “We may get a little bit of runoff as whatever melting occurs, so ponds, streams, dugouts will get a little bit of benefit from that,” Todey says, “but we’re going to have to get more moisture once we get towards the spring and we get soil temperatures thawing and get a chance to get something in that profile.” 

The report released Thursday from the US Drought Monitor shows conditions across western and northwest Iowa ranging from moderate to extreme drought and Todey doubts that trend will shift significantly.

(As above) “We don’t expect the drought situation overall, especially Drought Monitor maps, to change too much,” Todey says. “While we get these snowfalls, they are nice, even bigger snowfalls don’t include a lot of moisture in them, so changes in the U.S. Drought Monitor are going to be pretty slow this time of year. We’re slow to worsen and slow to improve, just because we don’t expect much precipitation.”

The latest long-range outlooks call for above-normal temperatures and near to below-normal precipitation into early February.