Most of Minnesota — 88 percent — is in moderator drought, a dramatic expansion from 6 percent a week ago, according to the Drought Monitor as reported by the Food & Environment Reporting Network.  Record-high temperatures accelerated dryness.  Precipitation in Minnesota is 2.5-3.5 inches below normal since October 1.

“Precipitation deficits…are below the 75th percentile in most of the area, according to Drought Monitor, referring to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  Soil moisture levels in Nebraska are 2-3 inches below normal.  Much of Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin are rated as abnormally dry — one step away from drought.

The northern Plains and upper Midwest include major corn, soybean, and wheat states.  Minnesota often ranks fourth in corn and soybean output.  North Dakota was the number one wheat state last year and Nebraska is the usually number three in corn.

Approximately 34.7 percent of the contiguous 48 states is in drought, up 3 points in a week.  California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona had their warmest winters on record this year.  Warmer than usual weather is forecast for the West through the end of March.

The spring forecast from the National Weather Service says rainfall will be below normal in the upper Midwest, particularly in northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, but above normal in the South. Warmer than normal temperatures are forecast for the West and for North Dakota, the northern half of South Dakota, most of Minnesota and the northern half of Wisconsin.