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Historically hot, dry conditions covered many of the nation’s key agricultural regions during July. Preliminary data provided by the National Weather Service indicated that July rainfall totaled less than 50 percent of normal in a broad area stretching from the central and southern Plains into the Mid-South and Midwest. No measurable rain fell during July in several locations. Meanwhile, monthly temperatures generally ranged from 4 to 8°F above normal across the northern and central Plains and the Midwest. It was the hottest July on record in cities such as Rockford, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; and La Crosse, Wisconsin, breaking all-time records set in 1921, 1934, and 1936, respectively.
USDA analysis of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows that the overall percentage of U.S. corn and soybeans in drought stabilized during the week ending July 31. In fact, U.S. corn in drought dropped slightly from 89 to 88%. Soybeans in drought also fell a point, from 88 to 87%. However, the percentage of corn in the two worst drought categories (D3 to D4, or extreme to exceptional drought), climbed from 37 to 40%. Soybeans in extreme to exceptional drought rose to 39% on July 31, up from 35% a week earlier. Severe impacts also persisted in other agricultural sectors. For example, hay in extreme to exceptional drought rose from 23 to 28%, even as hay in drought declined slightly from 66 to 64%. Similarly, 72% of the domestic cattle inventory was in drought at the end of the July, down a point from a week ago, while cattle in D3 and D4 jumped from 28 to 33%. The bottom line is that there was further drought intensification during the last seven days of July in the hardest-hit areas of the Plains, Midwest, and Mid-South, while late-July rainfall provided some drought relief in parts of the eastern U.S. and across the nation’s northern tier. Total drought coverage in the conterminous U.S. fell a percentage point during the week ending July 31, from 64 to 63%.
Weather Outlook: An unusually strong summer cold front will reach the northern Plains on Friday and cross the Midwest during the weekend. Scattered showers and thunderstorms will precede and accompany the cold front, mainly across the nation’s northern tier. Rainfall associated with the cold front’s passage could reach 1 to 2 inches from the Dakotas into the Northeast. However, only isolated showers can be expected across the core drought areas of the Plains and Midwest. In the front’s wake, below-normal temperatures will prevail across the northern and central Plains and the Midwest, although hot weather will return to the High Plains by early next week. Meanwhile, extreme heat will persist into next week across the south-central U.S. Elsewhere, five-day rainfall totals could reach 1 to 3 inches, with locally higher amounts, in the Southeast.