Weekly Weather Update: Aug. 10, 2023
For the first time since last August, northeast Stanton southeast Wayne and northwest Cuming counties are out of exceptional drought (D4). There is still a long way to go before drought is totally eradicated, but getting out of the worst drought category is worth celebrating. There was a widespread one-category improvement in the southwestern section of the state. Unfortunately, the area of D4 remains in the area between Fullerton and northern Clay County. Overall, 53% of the state is in drought, which is a significant improvement over three months ago when 99% of the state was in some level of drought. Furthermore, over a quarter of the state is now free of both drought and abnormal dryness.
Most of the state picked up at least a half inch of rain in the last seven days, with two- to three-inch totals common in the eastern Panhandle and across southwestern Nebraska. Highest totals were found across Dundy and Hitchcock counties in the far southwest corner, where four to five inches of rain was common. Portions of northeast and east-central Nebraska also picked up robust precipitation, which certainly helped bring some improvement on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Precipitation was generally under a half inch in the Highway 34 corridor in from eastern Seward through Cass County. This area has mostly missed out on the bigger events over the past two weeks.
Soil Moisture Update
The recent precipitation in northeastern Nebraska is also reflected in the latest root zone percentiles map from GRACE, which shows that area in the near normal range for root zone soil moisture in early August. This is generally the case for the remainder of the state as well — a big improvement from early May when most of the state was in the bottom 20th percentile for root zone soil moisture.
The latest VegDRI shows reasonably good conditions prevailing across the far southeastern quadrant of the state and across almost all of western Nebraska. VegDRI continues to indicate the worst conditions centered across Hamilton, York, Fillmore and Clay counties. Conditions have improved a good bit across northeastern Nebraska in the past few weeks, which may be a sign that average yields can still be obtained this year.
The latest NASS crop progress report released on Aug. 7 showed 13% of pastures in poor to very poor (P-VP) condition compared to 56% good to excellent (G-E), which is about where it's been for the last month. I don't expect those numbers to change much until drought conditions in parts of south-central and east-central Nebraska start to meaningfully improve. Close to half of the corn statewide is in the dough stage and rates as 61 G-E to 16 P-VP, a slight improvement over last week. Sixty-eight percent of the soybean crop has set pods and comes in with 54% G-E vs. 18% P-VP. Winter wheat harvest is starting to wrap up, though roughly 13% remained to be harvested as of late last week. The sorghum crop continues to receive a mostly good rating and is about 60% headed.