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Regional Drought Update Date
September 1, 2022
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Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Missouri River Basin


DEWS Regions:
Watersheds
Update Status:

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

Drought Persists Across Missouri River Basin, Likely to Continue

 

Key Points

  • Drought is currently affecting just over 46% of the Missouri River Basin, with 74% of the Basin abnormally dry (D0), according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Exceptional drought (D4)the worst level of drought—was introduced in early August in southwestern Nebraska, with portions extending into northwest Kansas and northeast Wyoming.
  • Many of the current known impacts from drought are on agriculture, including crops (corn, soybeans, sorghum, alfalfa hay, pulse crops) as well as livestock due to poor pasture and rangeland conditions, limited forage and surface water. In addition, wildland fire has been an issue in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska; grasshoppers have damaged vegetation in Montana and the Dakotas; and low flows and high temperatures have resulted in fishing closures in Montana.
  • The monthly temperature and precipitation outlooks for September 2022 show an increased chance for the continuation of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation across much of the Basin, which likely means the persistence of drought conditions.
  • Potential issues of persistent drought conditions moving into the fall season include limited moisture for cover crops and winter wheat, which are difficult to establish in dry conditions. In addition, persistent drought could increase hydrological impacts to surface and groundwater, as well as ecological impacts.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions | August 30, 2022

Current U.S. Drought Monitor map for the Missouri River Basin Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) region with data valid for August 30, 2022. 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. 

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
46%
of the Missouri River Basin is in drought
3%
more of the MRB is in drought than last week
74%
of the Missouri River Basin is abnormally dry (D0)

Current Conditions

  • Drought is currently affecting just over 46% of the Missouri River Basin, with 74% of the Basin abnormally dry (D0), according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 
  • Drought has remained relatively the same or improved in some areas over the last four weeks; however, there have been some pockets of drought intensification across Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, and South Dakota (Figure 1). 
  • Exceptional drought (D4)—the worst level of drought—was introduced in early August in southwestern Nebraska, with portions extending into northwestern Kansas and northeastern Wyoming.
  • Below-normal precipitation, along with slightly above-normal temperatures, have been driving the drought persistence and intensification. 
  • Precipitation has been only 5%–25% of normal across most of Nebraska and Kansas, as well as northeastern Montana, western North Dakota, portions of South Dakota, and northeastern Colorado (Figure 2). 
  • Temperature departures were highest in the Upper Basin, with temperatures 2–6°F above normal across the majority of Montana, Wyoming, and western portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska (Figure 3). 

Figure 1. 4-Week U.S. Drought Monitor Change Map (Since August 2, 2022)

From August 2 to 30, 2022, there have been pockets of drought intensification across Nebraska, Montana, Kansas and South Dakota, with conditions improving or remaining the same elsewhere.
4-week U.S. Drought Monitor change map, showing where drought has improved, remained the same, or worsened since August 2, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Figure 2. 30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation (August 2–30, 2022)

From August 2 to 30, precipitation has been only 5-25% of normal across most of Nebraska and Kansas, northeast Montana, western North Dakota, portions of South Dakota, and northeast Colorado
Percent of normal precipitation across the Missouri River Basin from August 2–30, 2022. The orange to deep red color indicates areas that were below normal for the time period, whereas green to purple areas were above normal. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center ACIS Climate Maps.

Figure 3. 30-Day Departure from Normal Temperature (°F) (August 2–30, 2022)

From August 2 to 30, most of the Missouri River Basin experience near-normal to above-normal temperatures.
Departure from normal temperature across the Missouri River Basin from August 2–30, 2022. The orange to red colors indicate areas that were above normal for the time period, whereas green areas were below normal. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center ACIS Climate Maps.

Impacts

  • Many of the current known impacts from drought are on agriculture, including crops as well as livestock due to poor pasture and rangeland conditions, limited forage and surface water. In addition, wildland fire has been an issue in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska; grasshoppers have damaged vegetation in Montana and the Dakotas; and low flows and high temperatures have resulted in fishing closures in Montana.
  • Soil moisture is significantly below normal across much of Nebraska and northern Kansas, as well as portions of Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming (Figure 4). 
  • 78% of pasture and rangeland in Nebraska is reported to be in poor to very poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Figure 5). Kansas and South Dakota also report over 50% of their pasture and rangeland in poor to very poor condition.
  • Reduced forage production due to drought has producers continuing to sell livestock, and producers are trying to find alternate sources of feed for livestock since hay is in short supply. 
  • Yield and the quality of crops is reduced as a result of the poorly timed hot and dry conditions this summer. Corn, soybeans, sorghum, wheat, and alfalfa hay were particularly hit hard across Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, and portions of South Dakota. Some corn fields are being cut for silage as a result of drought damage.
  • This summer’s heat and drought have really taken a toll on sorghum production, which is typically a drought-resilient crop. According to the USDA, this year’s projected U.S. sorghum yield is down 23% from last year, while the production forecast is down 36% from 2021.  
  • In Montana, low flows and high temperatures have resulted in fishing closures in southwest Montana. In addition, pulse crop (e.g., lentils, dry beans, chickpeas) production in the state has faced persistent extreme to exceptional drought this summer (D3–D4).
  • Wildland fire has been an issue in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The Deep Draw Fire burned 827 acres in southern Montana in mid-August. 
  • On the hydrology side, streamflow is below normal across areas in drought in the Basin, particularly southwestern Nebraska and northern Kansas (Figure 6). Due to reduced water supply in Kansas, irrigation is becoming very expensive, and in some cases, irrigation water was turned off altogether. Surface water sources for livestock are also very low across areas of Montana, Nebraska, and Kansas.
  • The dry conditions last year and this year have increased the grasshopper population across Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. An overabundance of grasshoppers can greatly damage vegetation.

Report your drought impacts through the Condition Monitoring Observer Reports (CMOR):

Submit Local Drought Impacts

Figure 4. NASA SPoRT-LIS 0–100 cm Soil Moisture Percentiles (Valid September 1, 2022)

Soil moisture is significantly below normal across much of Nebraska and northern Kansas, as well as portions of Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming
NASA’s Short-term Prediction and Transition Center – Land Information System (SPoRT-LIS) 0–100cm soil moisture percentiles, valid on September 1, 2022. NASA SPoRT-LIS provides high-resolution (about 3-km) gridded soil moisture products in real-time to support regional and local modeling and improve situational awareness. Source: NASA.

Figure 5. Pasture and Range Conditions (Rated Poor to Very Poor) – As of August 28, 2022

Across the lower 48, 46% of pasture and rangeland is rated poor to very poor, including 78% of pasture and rangeland in Nebraska.
Pasture and range conditions rated in poor to very poor condition across the United States for the week ending August 28, 2022. The number on top represents the current condition, with the change from last week in the brackets below. Source: USDA.

Figure 6. 7-Day Average Streamflow Compared to Historical Streamflow (Valid on August 31, 2022)

Streamflow is below normal across areas in drought in the Basin, particularly southwest Nebraska and northern Kansas
7-day average streamflow that is below the historical conditions for August 31, 2022 across the Missouri River Basin. Source: USGS WaterWatch

Outlook and Potential Impacts

  • Short-term outlooks for September 9–15 show increased chances for above-normal temperatures across the Basin, with the exception of central Montana. The Climate Prediction Center's precipitation outlook for September 9–15 shows greater chances for above-normal precipitation across the lower Basin, and below-normal precipitation in the eastern Dakotas into Minnesota (Figure 7).
  • The monthly temperature and precipitation outlooks for September 2022 (Figures 8 and 9) show an increased chance for the continuation of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation across a majority of the Basin, which likely means the persistence of drought conditions. 
  • Potential issues of persistent drought conditions moving into the fall season include limited moisture for cover crops and winter wheat, which are difficult to establish in dry conditions. 
  • Despite the potential for the persistence of drought, significant wildland fire potential is not elevated, and is expected to be normal for this time of year across the Basin this September (Figure 10).
  • Hydrological impacts could increase if drought continues—meaning that soil moisture and surface water, streamflow, and groundwater levels could decline. Ecological impacts could also increase with reduced availability of water overall.

Figure 7. 8–14 day Precipitation Outlook (Valid September 9–15, 2022)

The 8-14 day precipitation outlook for September 9-15 favors below-normal precipitation for parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas, with near- or above-normal precipitation elsewhere.
8–14 day precipitation outlook for September 9–15, 2022. The green shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal precipitation, brown shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal precipitation, and gray represents areas with a greater chance for near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Figure 8. Monthly Precipitation Outlook for September 2022

The September 2022 precipitation outlook favors below-normal precipitation across a majority of the Missouri River Basin.
Monthly precipitation outlook for September 2022. 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.

Figure 9. Monthly Temperature Outlook for September 2022

The September 2022 temperature outlook favors above-normal temperatures across a majority of the Missouri River Basin.
Monthly temperature outlook for September 2022. The red shades represent areas with a greater chance for above-normal temperatures; white areas represent equal chances for either above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures; and blue shades represent areas with a greater chance for below-normal temperatures. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Figure 10. Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September 2022

The Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September 2022 shows that  significant wildland fire potential is not elevated across the Missouri River Basin.
Significant wildland fire potential outlook for September 2022. Above-normal significant wildfire potential (red) indicates a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildland fires will occur. These assessments are designed to inform decision makers for proactive wildland fire management, thus better protecting lives and property, reducing firefighting costs and improving firefighting efficiency. Source: Predictive Services, National Interagency Fire 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

Dannele Peck & Dennis Todey
USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub & Midwest Climate Hub

Kevin Low
NOAA/National Weather Service Missouri Basin River Forecast Center

Audra Bruschi & Ray Wolf
NOAA/National Weather Service Central Region

Rezaul Mahmood & Gannon Rush
High Plains 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 Missouri River Basin based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.