The snowstorms that have swept through the Plains in the past week have marginally improved the long-term drought in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The National Drought Mitigation Center, in its weekly update Thursday, noted that some of the hardest-hit areas of the two states have improved slightly and are considered in severe drought instead of exceptional drought.
That obviously doesn't break the drought, but in the short-term the snow is headline news for what it will do for winter wheat — insulate and nourish the parched, exposed crop.
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“This has been a really big deal,” said Mary Knapp, state climatologist for Kansas.
A widespread area of the state got between a trace and 2 inches of water from the snow, with some areas receiving 3 inches, she said. Soils across Kansas are not frozen, so the snow that has melted was mostly absorbed into the ground, she said.
Major improvements have taken place in the southeastern United States, according to the Drought Center.
According to the center, the southeast is now free of extreme and exceptional drought for the first time since August 2010.
Additionally, the footprint of the drought has shrunk in the southeast. About 27 percent is in moderate drought or worse, down from nearly 44 percent last week. Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the Drought Center, said a month or more of consistent moisture has been the key.
Drought is worsening in Mexico and in California, the weekly report notes.
The U.S. Drought Monitor map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 350 drought observers across the country.