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NDSU Extension Service, Published July 20 2012

ND creeps into worst drought since 2008

FARGO - The U.S. Drought Monitor, updated weekly, shows drought is impacting 26 percent of North Dakota, according to Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist and assistant professor of climatology at North Dakota State University.

"This is the worst drought to hit North Dakota since September 2008," Akyuz says. "Today 16 percent of the state is under severe drought and 10 percent of the state is under moderate drought."

Drought started to creep into the state at the end of November 2011 after a record drought-free stretch. North Dakota was drought-free for 115 consecutive weeks from Sept. 15, 2009, through Nov. 29, 2011.

"At the beginning, the drought was a welcome change after three back-to-back major floods on the Red River," Akyuz says. "However, changing weather patterns led to the conditions in which precipitation no longer could overcome evaporative demand and the demand for the plants to sustain healthy growth.

"At the beginning of the planting season this spring, if the soil had not been charged with moisture from the previous wet season, conditions would have been much worse," Akyuz adds.

He is concerned about the moisture recharge this fall.

"Even if the weather pattern changed now, it might not help the crop that is already in the field," he says. "However, the change is desperately needed to recharge the soil before getting into the freeze so that moisture could be utilized for the spring planting next year."

But Akyuz sees no changes in the weather pattern during the next two seasons. That means the above-normal temperatures forecasted for this fall and winter would exacerbate the ongoing drought conditions in North Dakota, he says.