Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Site Section
News & Events

North Central U.S. Climate and Drought Outlook Webinar: April 20, 2023

Event Date
April 20, 2022
Event Time
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

This monthly briefing, hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and climate partners (U.S. Department of Agriculture, American Association of State Climatologists, National Drought Mitigation Center), covers the region from the Rockies to the Great Lakes.

April 2023 topics included the recent warm up and melting snowpack, transition to ENSO-neutral and the potential for El Niño, the shift from wetter conditions to dry over a large area, impacts to early ag conditions and delays in the northern areas, fire issues on the plains, and ongoing drought issues (impacts to rangeland, winter wheat, etc.).


Welcome to the North Central U.S. Climate and Drought Outlook Webinar

Speaker: Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub



Current Conditions

Speaker: Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub 

  • Temperature conditions:
    • March 2023: Continuation of general winter pattern: warm in the south/east and cooler in the north/west. North Dakota had one of its top 5 coldest Marches (partially snow cover).
    • January–March: Similar temperature pattern for much of the winter: warmer-than-normal temperatures in the east, with colder temperatures in the west.
    • Last 30 days: Generally warmer-than-average to the east, and colder-than-average to the west/north.
  • Precipitation: 
    • March 2023: The eastern Corn Belt was wet, while the Central Plains were dry.
    • January–March: Clear path on precipitation from California across the central U.S. 
    • Last 30 days: Large area of drier-than-normal conditions in the Plains, with pockets of wetter conditions (wettest around the Great Lakes). This is good for spring planting – but not good for drought recovery.



Issues and Events

Speaker: Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub 

    • Snow: 
      • Snow loss in the north.
      • A number of snowfall records have been set.
      • Impacts:
        • Increased stress/death in pronghorn-mule deer in Wyoming (also pneumonia).
        • Stress on cattle out on the Plains from prolonged winter.
        • Flooding/runoff.
    • Dry Air/Evaporation/Evapotranspiration:
      • Dry air, warmer temperatures, and windy conditions have led to high evaporation/evapotranspiration rates – daily losses are almost summer-like.
      • Example: Champaign, IL soils lost 1 inch of water in a week in early April.
    • Fire:
      • Several states reported fires. Mostly smaller – nothing major. Some planned burns, with others unplanned.
      • Periodic smoke issues in Des Moines/Plains.
      • Grass fires in Wisconsin.
    • Wind:
      • No major differences, from a climatological standpoint, so far this year.
      • April was somewhat above average in Kansas.
      • Red flag warnings have been frequent.
    • Enhanced severe weather season:
      • Very active early season in southern/eastern parts of the region.
      • March 31–April: A record-breaking severe weather outbreak for Illinois and Indiana.
      • Quieter in the Plains/north.



    Hydrologic Impacts

    Speaker: Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub 

    • 7-day average streamflows: High in the north (snow melt) and low in the Plains (Missouri/Iowa) and eastern Corn Belt.
    • Soil moisture: Ongoing dryness in the Plains, with some dryness developing in the east. Soil moisture conditions are unknown in the north due to frozen soils.
    • Snow water equivalent (SWE) is above average in nearly all basins.
    • Various water issues:
      • Flooding on many major rivers in the north.
      • Snow: Much is removed, but some additional snow is coming.
      • Mountains are just reaching peak snow, and runoff is starting.
      • Eastern areas are mostly normal, but seeing some drying.
      • Delayed ice-out because of the late cold in Minnesota.
      • Winterkill issues in some lakes (low water levels going into the year, cold, ice).
    • U.S. Drought Monitor: Ongoing drought issues from western Iowa/Nebraska down into Kansas/Oklahoma, with some improvements in the Northern Plains area. 43% of Kansas is in Exceptional Drought (D4).



    Agricultural Impacts

    Speaker: Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub 

    • Recent cold slowed speciality crops, but at risk with pending cold.
    • Alfalfa – similar concerns.
    • Winter wheat is very poor.



    Climate Outlooks

    Speaker: Dennis Todey, USDA Midwest Climate Hub 

    • ENSO status: Currently, conditions are ENSO-neutral, with increasing chances for El Niño. This reduces some drought risk into the growing season.
    • Temperature and precipitation:
      • View the Climate Prediction Center's outlooks.
      • Overall, there is less confidence in the outlooks without La Niña/El Niño in play.
      • In the May–July and June–August outlooks, there is a greater likelihood of warmer and wetter conditions to the east, but this is not strong.
      • There is not much to say in the Plains. Conditions should help drought some, but this region has serious deficits to overcome.
    • Drought outlook: For April 21–July 31, drought improvement or removal is projected for the Northern Plains, with drought persistence in the south (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma).



    Closing and Questions & Answers