La Niña develops as U.S. drought expands

Conditions across the southern third of the U.S. to be drier and warmer due to emerging weather pattern.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

November 1, 2021

2 Min Read

As drought expansion marches on in the U.S., the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says La Niña conditions are developed and have an 87% chance of continuing from December 2021- February 2022.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor showed that just over 64% of the U.S. is experiencing some form of dryness and drought. The most severe categories of drought have seen some reprieve but are still covering 25% of the U.S.

The update reported that some rain fell in the High Plains across Wyoming and South Dakota to eastern Nebraska, with up to 2 inches falling across southeast Kansas. Eastern Nebraska, southeast Kansas, Wyoming and western Colorado all saw some slight reversal in drought conditions. However, dryness expanded in eastern, central, and southern Colorado.

USDA recently reported that 73% of the pasture and rangeland in North Dakota was in poor to very poor condition, with the statistics 78% in South Dakota, 55% in Wyoming, 49% in Colorado, 31% in Nebraska, and 26% in Kansas.

In light of the recent La Niña news, the outlook for California remains grim. Big Bear Lake in southern California is only two feet away from the record level of 18 feet below, and avocado production was reduced roughly 22% in the southern California growing belt, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported.

Still, topsoil moisture did improve considerably in some regions of the West from recent rains. According to the USDA, California went from 75% of the topsoil moisture short or very short to 40% last week, Oregon improved 16% to 53% short or very short, Washington improved 9% to 78%, and Idaho improved 17% to 45%. Montana, on the hand, still had 96% of the topsoil moisture short or very short.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that drought levels D3 and D4 (exceptional drought) were pulled back in northern California, northwest Nevada, and parts of Idaho where the heaviest rains fell. Improvements were also seen in Washington and Montana.  

Looking at the future forecast, however, the Drought Monitor said much of the West outside of the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies, western parts of the Great Plains, and the northern Great Lakes will likely receive little to no precipitation. Temperatures are expected to average near to above normal.

“The outlook for Nov. 2-6 shows drier-than-normal weather favored over the Southwest and Upper Mississippi Valley, with wetter-than-normal weather favored from the Pacific Northwest to southern Plains and eastward to the East Coast.”

Unfortunately, the emergence of La Niña means that this winter will bring drier and warmer conditions across the southern third of the U.S., and cooler conditions in the northern U.S. and Canada. Other regions, including the Pacific Northwest, the Tennessee/Ohio Valleys, and parts of the Midwest will likely see more rain and snow than average, the Climate Prediction Center explained.


About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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