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Regional Drought Update Date
June 10, 2021
Site Section
Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Midwest


DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue further drought status updates as conditions evolve.

Severe Drought Expansion and Heat Concerns in the Upper Midwest

Key Points

  • Severe drought (D2) has expanded across the Upper Midwest, now affecting portions of Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Moderate to severe drought (D1-D2) covers 70% of Michigan, 57% of Iowa, 46% of Minnesota, 34% of Wisconsin, and 9% of Illinois. Overall, 27% of the Midwest region is in drought. 
  • Drought impacts are beginning to intensify in the Upper Midwest, including wildfire risk, water supply concerns for agriculture, municipalities, and landscaping, and crop stress due to a lack of soil moisture. Municipal water supply concerns are impacting western and central Iowa, where drought has been an issue since summer 2020. 
  • NOAA’s short-term outlook for June 18-24 calls for a continuation of hot and dry conditions across the Midwest, which will continue to dry soils and make drought issues persist or potentially worsen across the Upper Midwest. 
  • Summer outlooks (June-August) are leaning slightly towards the potential for above-normal temperatures. With this potential for extreme heat and the current water deficits, it is likely that drought conditions will persist throughout summer. Existing drought issues like increased fire risk, inadequate soil moisture and increased stress for crops and landscapes, and limitations for municipal water supply are expected to continue in drought-affected areas.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Midwest | June 8, 2021

Current U.S. Drought Monitor map for the Midwest as of June 8, 2021.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. Drought categories show experts’ assessments of conditions related to dryness and drought including observations of how much water is available in streams, lakes, and soils compared to usual for the same time of year. 

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories

The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
D0 - Abnormally Dry
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
D1 - Moderate Drought
The color with the hex code #f5ad3d identifies:
D2 - Severe Drought
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
D3 - Extreme Drought
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
D4 - Exceptional Drought
Main Stats
27%
of the Midwest is in drought
6%
of the Midwest is in severe drought (D2)
70%
of Michigan is in moderate (D1) to severe (D2) drought

Current Conditions

  • Severe drought (D2) has expanded across the Upper Midwest, now affecting portions of Michigan, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Moderate to severe drought (D1-D2) covers 70% of Michigan, 57% of Iowa, 46% of Minnesota, 34% of Wisconsin, and 9% of Illinois. Overall, 27% of the Midwest region is in drought. 
  • The area with the greatest drought development and intensification over the spring 2021 season is centered over the areas adjacent to southern Lake Michigan and into eastern Iowa (Figure 1). This area only received 25-70% of normal spring precipitation (Figure 2). Temperatures were 2 to 4°F above normal across a majority of the Upper Midwest this spring, which contributed to the intensification of drought.
  • Dry conditions and above-normal temperatures have dried the soils in many areas of the Upper Midwest in both the topsoil and deeper soils as well. In Michigan, 64% of topsoil is rated as short or very short according to the USDA, which is a 27% increase since last week. Stations in the Illinois Climate Network in northern Illinois have seen a sharp decrease in topsoil moisture recently, and a more steady decrease in deeper soils.
  • Streamflow conditions from the USGS show widespread below-normal streamflow values across the Upper Midwest states, particularly across Michigan, northeastern Illinois, southeastern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and west-central Iowa.
  • During the spring months, Great Lakes water levels typically rise due to increased precipitation and runoff. However, the recent drier conditions led to well below average seasonal rises during the spring. Lake Michigan-Huron experienced a record low change in water levels during this time.

Impacts

  • Drought impacts are beginning to intensify in the Upper Midwest, including wildfire risk, water supply concerns for agriculture, municipalities, and landscaping, and crop stress due to a lack of soil moisture.
  • Michigan and Minnesota have been dealing with an increased risk for wildfire for a couple of months now, and as a result, burn bans have been in place in some areas since early April. Just this past week, there were two wildfires in Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota.
  • Water supply concerns are impacting western and central Iowa, where drought has been an issue since summer 2020. Municipalities near Des Moines and Cedar Rapids are beginning to store and/or limit water use.
  • In Michigan, fruit growers irrigated in early June, which is the earliest those fruit growers could remember irrigating. However, the lack of rain led to lower disease and fungal pressure on fruits. The exception was powdery mildew which was more prevalent this year due to the dry spring.
  • While the drier weather was advantageous planting, crops are showing early season stress as a result of the dryness and warmer temperatures. Some farmers are worried that without rain, there will be a reduction in yield. Despite the issues, a majority of crops in the Upper Midwest are reported to be in fair, good, or excellent condition, although there are some concerns over the condition of hay in Minnesota.
  • Chicago and surrounding areas have been feeling the impacts as well. Urban landscapes like trees, lawns, shrubs, and plants are having a difficult time surviving unless adequately watered, particularly those that are newly planted.

Figure 1: U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map (13-Week Map Since March 9, 2021)

U.S. Drought Monitor change map for the Midwest, showing the change in drought classification from March 9 to June 8, 2021 (13 weeks). Large portions of the Upper Midwest saw a 1-3 class degradation during this period.
U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing the change in drought conditions from March 9 to June 8, 2021. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Figure 2: Precipitation Percent of Normal (Last 90 Days): March 9-June 6, 2021

Percent of normal precipitation for the Midwest over the past 90 days (March 9-June 6, 2021). Parts of the Upper Midwest saw significantly below normal precipitation
Percent of normal precipitation across the Midwest from March 9 to June 6, 2021. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center ACIS Climate Maps.

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Outlook and Potential Impacts

  • NOAA’s short-term outlook for June 18-24 calls for a continuation of hot and dry conditions across the Midwest, which will continue to dry soils and make drought issues persist or potentially worsen across the Upper Midwest. The greatest chances for above-normal temperatures is in the western areas of the region. In the far eastern portions of the region (Ohio and Kentucky), there is a chance for below-normal temperatures. Below-normal precipitation is expected across the entire Midwest (Figure 3).
  • For June overall, there is a greater chance for above-normal temperatures across most of the Midwest, with equal chances for below-, near-, or above-normal precipitation. There is a slightly greater chance for above-normal precipitation in the far Upper Midwest and the lower Midwest.
  • Summer outlooks (June-August) are leaning slightly towards the potential for above-normal temperature. With this potential for extreme heat and the current water deficits, it is likely that drought conditions will persist throughout summer (Figure 4). 
  • Existing drought issues like increased fire risk, inadequate soil moisture and increased stress for crops and landscape, and limitations for municipal water supply are expected to continue in drought-affected areas. If rainfall does not come soon, some of these impacts will worsen, including more water supply issues, which could warrant more conservation measures.

Figure 3: 8-14 Day Outlook (Temperature and Precipitation): Valid for June 18-24, 2021

Climate Prediction Center 8-14 day temperature outlook, showing the probability of exceeding the median temperature for June 18-24, 2021. The greatest chances for above-normal temperatures is in the western areas of the region. In the far eastern portions of the region (Ohio and Kentucky), there is a chance for below-normal temperatures.

Climate Prediction Center 8-14 day precipitation outlook, showing the probability of exceeding the median precipitation for June 18-24, 2021. Below-normal precipitation is expected across the entire Midwest
8–14 day temperature outlook (top) and precipitation outlook (bottom) for June 18–24, 2021, showing the probability of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Valid June 10, 2021. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Figure 4: U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook: Valid for May 20-August 31, 2021

Climate Prediction Center seasonal drought outlook, showing the probability drought conditions persisting, improving, or developing from June to August 2021. Existing drought in the Midwest is likely to persist through summer.
Three-month drought outlook for June to August 2021, showing the likelihood that drought will persist, improve, or develop. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

For More Information

Prepared By

Molly Woloszyn
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

Dennis Todey
USDA Midwest Climate Hub

Doug Kluck
NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Information

Ray Wolf & Central Region Headquarters
NOAA/National Weather Service

Mike Timlin
Midwestern Regional Climate Center 

Special Thanks

This drought status update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to communicate a potential area of concern for drought expansion and/or development within the North Central U.S. based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.