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Regional Drought Update Date
January 20, 2023
Site Section
Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Missouri River Basin


DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future Missouri River Basin Drought Status Updates as conditions evolve.

Despite Improvement, Drought Remains Firmly Entrenched Across the Missouri River Basin States.

This Missouri River Basin Drought Status Update is released in coordination with the January 19, 2023 North Central U.S. Climate and Drought Outlook Webinar. View the webinar for more details.

Key Points

  • Drought remains widespread across many of the states within the Missouri River Basin. Currently 57% of this region is in drought, with the most intense areas in Kansas and Nebraska, where exceptional drought (D4) has persisted since late summer 2022.
  • After a very dry fall, much of the Missouri River Basin has received above-normal precipitation so far this winter, with the exception of Kansas, southeastern Nebraska, and portions of Montana and northeast North Dakota
  • As a result of the above-normal precipitation, drought in some areas has improved by one to two categories according to the U.S. Drought Monitor since the end of November. On the other hand, portions of Kansas, southeast Colorado, and southern Montana have seen drought conditions worsen by one to two categories.
  • Drought impacts are being reported across Kansas and Nebraska. Wheat conditions are very poor in southwest Kansas. Some farmers in this area are tilling or planting cover crops to help keep fields moist to combat blowing dirt issues. Wichita, Kansas entered Stage 1 of its drought response plan on January 10, which calls for voluntary water conservation and the city tries to conserve water in its operations. 
  • Across Nebraska and Kansas, the soil moisture profile is very low, despite some areas having a wet top layer. Plains fires have not been an issue thankfully, and the outlook for February does not include an above-normal risk for this area either.
  • The February outlook shows the chance for above-normal precipitation to continue across northern portions of the region. However, in Kansas and Nebraska, where the most intense drought remains, there are equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation
  • Above-normal precipitation this winter would be helpful to add water to the landscape. However, if soils are frozen, this will limit the ability to replenish soil moisture and therefore improve drought conditions ahead of the upcoming growing season.
  • In addition, above-normal precipitation in the winter is not a significant amount of water, as this on average is the driest time of year. Therefore, we will need multiple episodes of soaking rainfall and/or snow melting over thawed soils to significantly improve the areas still in drought.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor | Missouri River Basin

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) 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. This map shows drought conditions for the Missouri River Basin and surrounding areas as of January 17, 2023.

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #ff6600
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
57%
of the states in the Missouri River Basin states are in drought
12%
less of the region is in drought than 8 weeks ago
83%
of the Missouri River Basin states are classified as abnormally dry (D0)

U.S. Drought Monitor 8-Week Change Map

Some areas have improved by one to two categories according to the U.S. Drought Monitor since the end of November. But portions of Kansas, southeast Colorado, and southern Montana have seen drought conditions worsen.
8-week change map for the U.S. Drought Monitor, showing where drought has improved (green to blue), is unchanged (gray), or worsened (yellow to brown) since November 22, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

February 2023 Precipitation Outlook

For February 2023, odds favor above-normal precipitation for Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and northern South Dakota and Wyoming, with equal chances of above or below-normal conditions in the rest of the Missouri River Basin.
Monthly precipitation outlook for February 2023. The green shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal precipitation; white areas represent equal chances for either above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation; and brown shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal precipitation. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

For More Information

Prepared By

Molly Woloszyn
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), CIRES/CU Boulder

Doug Kluck
NOAA/National Centers for Environmental Information

Dennis Todey
USDA Midwest Climate Hub

 

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 Missouri River Basin based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.