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During the last week, the heat that has been affecting much of the nation’s heartland all summer has shifted into the western United States. As a result, wildfires have flourished in parts of the West, particularly in Idaho and northern California. By August 20, the area burned by year-to-date U.S. wildfires reached 6.9 million acres, well above the 10-year average of 5.3 million acres.
Meanwhile, serious agricultural drought effects persist east of the Rockies, despite cooler weather and recent showers. During the week ending August 19, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that 51% of the U.S. corn and 37% of the soybeans were rated in very poor to poor condition. And, for the second consecutive week, corn rated very poor to poor remained two percentage points shy of the August 1988 record of 53%. Due to a record-setting pace of corn denting and maturity (60% and 17%, respectively, by August 19), any future improvements in the overall U.S. corn condition will be unlikely.
U.S. soybeans rated very poor to poor peaked at 39% two weeks ago, surpassing the July 1988 standard of 37%. Since then, that number has improved two percentage points. During the last week, improvements in soybean conditions were most substantial in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and South Dakota; yet, roughly one-third to one-half of the soybeans remain in very poor to poor condition in those four states.
Meanwhile, rangeland and pastures rated very poor to poor remained at a record-high of 59% (on August 19) for the third consecutive week. Nevertheless pastures rated very poor to poor fell (improved) by at least five percentage points during the week ending August 19 in several states, including Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Weather Update and Outlook: Cool air that has been blanketing the Plains and Midwest in recent days will gradually erode. In fact, hot weather has already overspread Montana, and near- to above-normal temperatures, with high temperatures occasionally topping 90°F, can be expected across the Plains and Midwest during the mid- to late-week period. The next opportunity for fairly widespread showers and thunderstorms across the Plains and Midwest will begin around August 23, when a series of weak cold fronts will begin to cross the region. Meanwhile in the Northwest, cooler air will arrive toward week’s end, but mostly dry conditions will persist.