Heavy snow and mid-winter moisture have helped ease drought conditions, but large chunks of the Corn Belt remain very dry.
Iowa State Climatologist Justin Glisan says much of western Iowa continues to experience drought conditions. The driest pocket is in the Sioux City area in northwest Iowa.
“That D-3, D-4 drought around Sioux City is something we only see every 50 to 100 years,” he says.
Glisan says the moisture deficit is in the 25-inch range in some sections of the state.
Snowfall has helped with subsoil moisture levels, along with rain that fell in February and March.
“We have seen some shallow moisture infiltration, so we have caught up some,” Glisan says.
With planting season just around the corner, Glisan says there could be some large rain events in April.
“I think I would prefer to see us plant into dry soil then start to chip away at our moisture deficit,” he says. “If we get a lot of rain in April, that will likely delay planting.”
The move from La Niña to El Niño should translate into more moisture, says Al Dutcher, associate state climatologist for the State of Nebraska.
He says current weather patterns will likely fall apart in early April, which could trigger a “significant” snow event in the northern and central Plains.
“Our pattern of dormancy is going to break,” Dutcher says. “If that doesn’t happen, we could dry out quickly.”
He says the snow pack in the northern Plains is the largest since 1982-83.
“The longer that lasts, the more we are likely to see severe weather,” Dutcher says.
El Niño generally brings wetter conditions, and Dutcher believes the moisture outlook is fairly promising.
“But if we move too quickly into El Niño, we could be set into another drying pattern,” he says.
Glisan says much of the Midwest looks to be in pretty good shape. Illinois escaped drought conditions in 2022, and he says other than a small pocket in Missouri, that state is in good shape heading into planting season.
“At this point, I don’t see an expansion of drought conditions,” Glisan says. “I think we are heading in the right direction.”