State's Drought Status Improves from 2008

State's Drought Status Improves from 2008

March 27, 2009

No part of Nebraska is identified as in a drought and only 11% is identified as abnormally dry, according to the March 17 U.S. Drought Monitor. The abnormally dry area is in the western half of the Panhandle and due to hydrological dryness.

Map showing area of western Panhandle listed as abnormally dry.
The yellow shading indicates the area of the western Nebraska Panhandle identified as abnormally dry. (Source: U.S. Drought Monitor)

This situation is a significant improvement over last year. The March 18, 2008 U.S. Drought Monitor indicated 9.5% of Nebraska was abnormally dry, and 22.8% of the state was in some level of drought — 15% moderate, 6.1% severe, and 1.7% extreme. The core dryness was limited to the western third of Nebraska.

Drought conditions encompass much of the southern High Plains from Texas north into southwestern Kansas, as well as a pocket of moderate drought conditions along the front range of the Rockies in Colorado.  Since October, there has been a slow expansion of drought conditions from southern Texas into southwest Kansas.  Recent precipitation has slowed the expansion and reduced drought intensity, but additional moisture events will be required to stem the northward expansion of this pocket into portions of western Nebraska.

Panhandle Concern

Wheat broke dormancy across southern Nebraska during the first week of March.  The lack of significant precipitation during the past four months increases the probability that abnormally dry conditions will be upgraded to moderate drought conditions across portions of the Panhandle and southwest Nebraska if significant moisture (one inch or greater) is not received by the end of March.

Al Dutcher
Extension State Climatologist