Zooming around with Zoe: The ongoing drought in the Northern Great Plains

Zooming Around With Zoe

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Eastern North Carolina has seen abnormally dry conditions this fall. But there are other areas of the country experiencing an even more intense drought.

And it’s not just California.

Seasonal dry air is a normal phenomenon across the country. But in 2021, it took a different shape and affected regions that do not normally experience frequent or intense drought.

It all started in Mid-March when very dry air pushed into North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. By summer, extreme and exceptional drought (the worst classification) took over parts of Montana, Minnesota, Alberta, Canada and Saskatchewan, Canada.

The USDA crop reports indicate that in mid-August — around the most critical time for spring wheat — crop conditions were mostly fair to very poor in the Dakotas, Montana, and Minnesota. The Canadian Drought Monitor reported that by the end of September, 67% of Alberta was in moderate to severe drought, including 97% of their farmland.

Scientists are able to discover how wet soil is by looking at satellite observations, which measures how much moisture is present in the top two inches of the soil. NASA created a map to show abnormally dry conditions all across the Northern Great Plains and Canada. A different satellite is able to measure groundwater, which was also extremely low and impacted agriculture and freshwater supply.

Even with some rainfall this autumn, the soil is still parched. It is still unknown how the ongoing drought will affect yields of winter wheat, which is planted in autumn and harvested in spring.

Luckily ENC’s drought hasn’t gotten as bad as the Great Plains. Let’s all hope for a bit more rain, but no severe weather.

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