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‘Extreme’ drought expands in southern Iowa

By: - November 16, 2023 1:54 pm

The area of extreme drought in Iowa is larger than it’s been all year. (Courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor)

A wide area of extreme drought stretched farther into southern Iowa this past week amid an overall lack of rainfall across the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Varying degrees of drought are affecting about 83% of the state, and extreme drought — the second-to-worst classification issued by the Drought Monitor — expanded in southeast Iowa and recently crept into Clarke, Marion and Warren counties in south-central Iowa.

The new assessment, issued Thursday, follows a week of almost no precipitation in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A small portion of far eastern Iowa had rainfall that totaled about a tenth of an inch. The vast majority of the state had none.

As of Sunday, about 42% of the state’s topsoil and 31% of its subsoil had adequate or surplus moisture for growing crops, the USDA reported. That is down several percentage points from a year ago.

The current drought conditions are expected to persist in most of Iowa throughout the winter, according to a new report by the federal Climate Prediction Center.

Those conditions are slightly better than they were in September, when about 97% of the state was suffering from some measure of drought. But the total area of extreme drought is larger than it’s been all year.

The dryness has aided farmers during harvest, allowing them to complete the work about 10 days ahead of the five-year average. Those who raise cattle, however, are affected by the nagging lack of rain.

“Cattle continued to graze on stalk fields this week, while livestock producers still had concerns about water supplies,” the USDA said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.