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Have recent rains improved drought monitors?

By Staff | Jul 12, 2019

Recent rains are nudging the northern tier of North Dakota into the “improving” category for drought monitors, according to a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

“We’ve been in improving conditions for a few weeks. There’s sometimes a little bit of a lag in the drought monitors the best way to describe that is first and foremost, they will come out with a new map tomorrow,” said Allen Schlag, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

Schlag explained rain fell after the deadline for publishing the map, which he said involved collaboration between NWS offices in Bismarck and Grand Forks.

“(North Dakota State Climatologist) Dr. Adnan Akyuz at NDSU also gathers information from all the local county agents,” Schlag said.

Although Schlag called the recent rain good news for most Pierce County residents, he cautioned, “That doesn’t always immediately transfer into agricultural improvements.”

“(Drought improvement)’s not necessarily as quick,” Schlag said. “So, we balance those meteorological improvement tempered with the ag response.”

Schlag said cool-season prairie grasses might not have had the advantage of rainfall to produce native prairie hay and pastures.

“We may not see as much improvement in the ag segment when the rainfall comes like it did here, in one big fell swoop,” Schlag noted. “We’re outside of the sweet spot for growing cool-season grasses.”

“We’ll probably see some improvements I hope in things like the row crops, which tend to be planted a little bit later: Things like corn, sunflower, soybeans and other edible beans. I think we’ll see some improvement in the description and narrative on what those crops are doing,” Schlag indicated. “We should also see some improvement on the small grains like the wheat. This is a critical period right now for most of our small grains like wheat, durum, barley in that those crops are pretty much headed out and they need this moisture right now to fill those heads with quality grain.”

Schlag continued, “The drought monitor still has a drought designation across that northern tier of counties in North Dakota. But I do think we’re in an improving pattern over the last couple of weeks.”

Schlag said he didn’t see much rainfall coming in the near future: “maybe a tenth of an inch or so is what they have down, so not a lot over the next few days.”

However, Schlag added with a laugh, “At this point, everyone is itching to dry out!”

Rugby Broadcasters, whose office serves as a cooperative weather observer for the NWS, reported 4.93 inches of rainfall for the month of June, according to KZZJ announcer Bruce Allen.

“So far this month, our rainfall total is 1.33 inches,” Allen told the Tribune.

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