Dryness Spreading Across Contiguous 48

This summer’s dryness in the western half of the contiguous 48 states is spreading eastward, bringing abnormally dry and exceptional drought conditions to the Southern Plains and the Southeast, according to the weekly Drought Monitor from the National Weather Service.




Meteorologists say a La Nina event brings cooler water temperatures to the equatorial Pacific, which means less evaporation and a change in jet stream directing low pressure systems eastward across the continent.

That usually means more rain west of the Continental Divide and less east of it.  While rain has been seen west of the Divide recently, conditions there were so parched that the Drought Monitor has many areas still recording exceptional drought conditions.

On Dec. 14, a strong mid-level low pressure system progressed inland into southern California where heavy precipitation (0.5 to 3 inches) fell, the Drought Monitor commentary said.  As this area of mid-level low pressure continued to track eastward, a powerful surface low developed across the high Plains with a subsequent track northeastward to the upper Mississippi Valley.




That resulted in widespread damaging winds and a dust storm across the Central and Southern Plains, the NWS said.  High winds and dryness contributed to many wildfires across Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

According to Storm Prediction Center preliminary data, nearly two dozen tornadoes were reported in eastern Nebraska and Iowa on Dec. 15.  As the storm tracked northeast to the upper Mississippi Valley, widespread precipitation (0.5 to 2 inches) fell with heavy snow blanketing northern Minnesota.

A slow-moving cold front resulted in a widespread area of rainfall (0.5 to 3 inches) from the Ozarks south to the western Gulf Coast, the NWS said.  On Dec. 18, a wave of low pressure developed along the front, which led to rainfall (0.5 to 3 inches) overspreading the Southeast.

However, this rainfall remained south of the increasingly dry Mid-Atlantic, the NWS said.  A series of low-pressure systems and frontal passages resulted in seven-day amounts of 0.5 to 1.5 inches, throughout the Northeast.

Periods of enhanced onshore flow continued to bring rain and high-elevation snow to the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies through mid-December, the NWS said.  The heaviest seven-day precipitation (2 to 5 inches, or more, liquid equivalent) was along and west of the Cascades in Oregon.

Month-to-date temperatures have averaged more than six degrees Fahrenheit above normal across the central and southern Plains, the NWS said.  In contrast to above-normal temperatures through nearly all of the central and eastern continental US this month, temperatures have averaged below normal across most of California.




The USDA reported formula and contract base prices for live FOB steers and heifers last week ranged from $137.09 to $138.34 per cwt, compared with the previous week’s range of $140.00 to $142.17.  FOB dressed steers and heifers went for $216.25 to $219.76 per cwt, versus $219.83 to $221.74.

The USDA choice cutout Thursday was up $1.08 per cwt at $262.94, while select was up $2.12 at $252.95.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $9.99 from $11.03 with 77 loads of fabricated product and 14 loads of trimmings and grinds sold into the spot market.

The USDA reported Thursday that basis bids for corn from livestock feeding operations in the Southern Plains were unchanged at $1.35 to $1.45 a bushel over the Mar futures and for southwest Kansas were unchanged at $0.40 over Mar, which settled at $6.05 3/4 a bushel, up $0.03 1/4.

No delivery intentions were posted against the Dec live cattle contract Thursday.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $160.28 per cwt up $0.03.  This compares with Thursday’s Jan contract settlement of $163.45 per cwt, up $1.67.