Cool, dryer, as wheat harvest winds down

KIMBALL, Neb. – An atmospheric pressure trough embedded over the tri-state region continued to funnel moisture-laden air through on a near-daily basis over the last week. Widespread thunderstorms continued to dump locally heavy rain across much of southeast Wyoming, northeast Colorado, and the Nebraska Panhandle. Although heavy rains fell in tightly localized areas, precipitation was down across the region compared to last week. In addition to localized heavy rainfall, many of the storms delivered hail driven by heavy winds.

On Sunday and Monday (Aug. 5-6) a slow-moving front passed through the region, dropping air temperatures and delivering light, scattered rainfall.

The rainfall was beneficial to spring-planted crops but continued to slow wheat harvest as it neared completion. In many locations hail caused varying levels of damage to crops.

Rainfall also provided beneficial moisture to pastures and rangeland across much of the region, boosting growth in warm season grasses nearing the end of their rapid growth phase. Where winter annual grasses are present, the recent hail stripped mature seed heads which will likely produce a flush of green as the last half of calendar summer begins.

In general, livestock grazing this year’s bountiful grass continue to do extremely well.

Regional Forecast and Conditions

Today’s (Friday) weather is expected to be sunny and warm with daytime air temperatures touching 86 degrees and overnight lows falling to about 56 degrees. Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be nearly identical with the same high and low temperatures. No precipitation is forecast for the weekend.

Monday through Wednesday are expected to be mostly sunny and warm, with highs in the mid-80’s and overnight lows falling into the mid-50’s. A slightly increased chance of showers is forecast for this period. 

All 13 selected Panhandle stations reported rain over the July 31-Aug. 6 period, ranging from 0.01 inches at Chadron Municipal to 0.79 inches at Lodgepole. Across the Panhandle rainfall averaged 0.28 inches, compared to 0.95 inches last week.
Soil temperatures were generally down across the Panhandle over the July 31-Aug. 6 period: (this week/last week/change): Alliance 71.1/71.7 (-0.6) degrees; Gordon 71.3/76.7 (-5.4) degrees; Mitchell 76.2/76.2 (unchanged) degrees; Scottsbluff 76.2/77.3 (-1.1); and Sidney 71.2/76.2 (-5.0) degrees.


U.S. Drought Monitor

National summary: Early in the drought week, much-needed rains fell in a swath covering eastern Wyoming, much of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, eastern Colorado and the majority of New Mexico. Moderate precipitation fell along the East Coast with the heaviest rains falling in the eastern Carolinas and central Pennsylvania. The northern Plains, Midwest and South saw lighter precipitation amounts. Central and south Texas saw little to no precipitation during the week while the dry pattern continued for much of the West.

High Plains: A swath of light to moderate precipitation fell in an area roughly covering north and east Wyoming, east Colorado and much of Nebraska and Kansas. The heaviest precipitation fell in western Nebraska, Kansas and eastern Colorado where amounts of 2 inches were widespread. Despite the rains, long-term drought was hardly affected. There was a slight improvement in southeast Colorado, and D1 was removed in southwest Kansas where short term indicators have rebounded.

Despite the monsoon season ramping up, dryness continued in west central Colorado where D3 was expanded. Moderate drought was expanded in southwest Wyoming where it remained dry during the period. There was also a slight expansion of D0 and D1 in North Dakota while D0 was contracted in southeast North Dakota into northeast South Dakota.

West: Light to moderate precipitation fell in an area roughly covering north and east Wyoming and east Colorado.

Monsoon rains continued to provide drought relief for some areas of the Southwest. Southern New Mexico saw the greatest improvements as drought was roughly reduced by 1-category in many areas. The heaviest rains have yet to reach east central New Mexico where extreme drought was expanded.

The Northwest remains dry as precipitation during the past 6 months was 50-75 percent of normal across much of the region. Wetness prevailed in much of southern Montana. Abnormal dryness (D0) was expanded in Idaho where short-term deficits exist. Based on preliminary data, July ranked as one of the ten driest on record in Idaho.

Near-term forecast: The Climate Prediction Center expects the greatest odds of above normal temperatures in the Southern Rockies stretching into the High Plains and in the Northeast during the next 6-10 days. The greatest probability of below normal precipitation during this period is centered in the High Plains.

U.S. Conditions and Weather Report

For the third consecutive week, drenching rains fell in parts of the East. In late July and early August, some of the heaviest rain soaked the Southeast, leading to flash flooding, fieldwork delays, and crop-quality concerns.

Meanwhile, widely scattered showers dotted the Plains, Midwest, and mid-South, accompanied by a turn toward cooler weather. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 5 degrees below normal from the central Plains into the mid-South, as well as portions of the upper Great Lakes region.

Although growing conditions remained mostly favorable across the nation’s midsection, those areas experiencing drought – including a broad area stretching from the southern Plains into the southwestern Corn Belt – received insufficient rainfall to alleviate crop stress.

Farther west, mostly dry weather prevailed from the Pacific Coast to the northern High Plains, while monsoon-related showers dotted the Southwest. Northwestern dryness, accompanied by temperatures that averaged more than 5 degrees above normal in some locations, favored small grain maturation and harvesting.

Hot, dry conditions in northern California and the Northwest contributed to additional wildfire development and expansion. Heat also persisted across the Far West and Desert Southwest.

USDA Weekly Weather and Crop Reports


Colorado producers were still assessing damage last week from tornadoes and hail that occurred on July 29, 2018.

Northeastern and east central county reporters noted storm damage from the prior week’s severe weather ranged from significant to total crop loss in areas. Corn, dry beans, millet, sorghum, sunflowers, and forage crops were noted as affected. Livestock losses and damage to rangeland grass were also mentioned. For crops not affected by severe weather, reporters noted conditions were very favorable due to continued moisture. Hay quality was noted to be down due to rain during cutting. Concerns remained in drier areas regarding crop yields and fall planting conditions.

Northwestern counties received moisture last week that helped improve range conditions. A reporter noted that some hay was lost as a result of rain after being cut.

In southwestern counties, little moisture was received last week and exceptional drought conditions continued to adversely impact the region.

Barley harvest started in the San Luis Valley last week and a reporter noted potato vines were being killed. Second cutting of alfalfa was progressing, but a reporter noted some rain delayed baling.

Southeastern county reporters noted recent rains benefitted pasture and crop conditions.

Statewide, stored feed supplies were rated 14 percent very short, 17 percent short, 66 percent adequate, and 3 percent surplus.

Sheep death loss was 72 percent average and 28 percent light. Cattle death loss was 71 percent average and 29 percent light.


No report published since mid-May.


Wyoming experienced below normal temperatures for the week. Thirty-one of the 34 reporting stations reported below normal temperatures for the week with a high temperature of 96 degrees recorded at Greybull and a low of 32 degrees recorded at Yellowstone.

Below normal moisture was reported at 28 of the 34 reporting stations. Two reporting stations had no precipitation. Chugwater reported the most moisture with 1.02 inches.

A reporter from Northwestern Wyoming noted that wildfires and hail storms have affected the area.

A reporter from North Central Wyoming reported that the crops look good and the pastures are green but to the south of them conditions are very dry.

A reporter from Western Wyoming indicated that hay producers are busy putting up their second cutting of alfalfa and conditions are drying out.

A reporter from Southeastern Wyoming stated that late summer conditions persist with most areas in need of moisture. Another reporter from Southeastern Wyoming indicated that they have received some scattered rain showers which have helped the soil moisture situation.

Irrigation water supply across Wyoming was rated 1 percent poor, 5 percent fair, 86 percent good, and 8 percent excellent.

Stock water supplies across Wyoming were rated 20 percent short, 79 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

© 2019-Business Farmer

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