Drought lingers, but retreats

MARSHALL – According to the latest update of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor, the drought is still with us, but the situation is much better than it’s been for two years, and we can look forward to further improvement.

Data on drought conditions is collected up to every Tuesday morning, analyzed and results released on Thursday morning.

Last week, only a small corner of southeast Minnesota and a narrow strip along the Canadian border were shown as normal. As of Thursday morning, the drought-free areas had expanded significantly, and most of the northern two-thirds of the state were officially downgraded to “abnormally dry.”

Only the southwest portion of the state and a northern patch lying mostly within Beltrami County are still considered in moderate drought. Severe drought conditions are now found only in the southwest part of the state, including parts of Lyon, Lincoln and Yellow Medicine counties.

According to Dan Luna, meteorologist with the Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service, he “wouldn’t be surprised” if most of the state showed white (no drought) on the drought monitor quite soon.

Even more good news is that the soil moisture deficit is improving, according to Jeff Strock, a soil scientist with the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton.

“The overall average soil moisture deficit as of May 15, 2013, was 0.94 inches in the upper three feet and 1.1 inches in the upper five feet of the soil profile,” Strock said. “This means that, on average, 0.94 inches of water is needed to fill the upper three feet of the soil profile or 1.1 inches is needed to fill the upper five feet to equal the long-term average for May 15 of 6.45 inches. This compares to deficits of 1.2 inches in the upper three feet and 2.2 inches in the upper five feet of the soil at the same time in 2012.”

However, Strock cautioned though the soil profile has been replenished to the three-foot level, additional moisture is needed to recharge the soil to the five-foot level, which holds the crucial reserves to get crops through dry summer months.