Light rain as weather system shifts

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 02, 2012 1:54 PM
Light rain as weather system shifts

By Sam Nelson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The drought-hit U.S. Midwest will be left high and dry as fresh weather updates indicate a tropical weather system now at the edge of the Caribbean Sea will not bring any moisture to the area when it makes landfall in about 10 days, an agricultural meteorologist said on Thursday.

Known as tropical depression 5, the system initially was expected to reach landfall on August 11-12 near Beaumont, Texas near the Texas-Louisiana border and potentially bring rain into the drought-stricken U.S. Plains and Midwest, according to Drew Lerner, meteorologist for World Weather Inc.

It now appears the system will make land fall further south in Texas thus keeping rain from the Midwest, Lerner said.

"It won't be a tropical storm until tomorrow when it gets into the Caribbean. At 2:00 p.m. EDT it was 385 miles east of the Windward Islands," Lerner said.

Lerner and other meteorologists said little improvement in the drought-stricken U.S. Midwest is expected for the next two weeks with occasional downpours bringing relief in isolated areas. But no widespread soaking rains are expected in significant corn and soybean growing regions.

Light showers with some locally heavier amounts fell on the U.S. Midwest crop belt overnight, which will provide some relief to crops and livestock from the worst drought in a half century, Lerner and World Weather's meteorologist Andy Karst said.

"There were some one-inch rains in areas of Nebraska, Kansas and southern Minnesota, and the usual 0.10 to 0.50 inch elsewhere," Karst said.

Another buildup of heat was expected next week in the central and western Midwest, with highs in the 90s to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which will add further stress to crops.

Weather forecasting models that meteorologists use to make their predictions were in agreement on Thursday, in contrast to some days when the European and U.S. models showed divergent patterns.

"There isn't a striking difference today. The GFS (U.S.) model has a stronger ridge of high pressure than the European model, but unlike some days they're aligned pretty well today," Karst said.

An atmospheric high pressure ridge centered over the Plains and Midwest has been blocking moisture from moving from the Gulf into the Midwest, leading to a buildup of heat and drought.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Thursday said temperatures would warm into the 90s F for all but the northwestern corner of the Midwest by Friday and Saturday, with 100s F most likely in Missouri and Kansas.

The extended outlook for later next week remained near to above normal for temperatures with the severe heat retreating to mainly the Plains.

The spreading drought has been cutting into crop conditions and analysts have been slashing production prospects for corn and soybeans almost daily.

The worst U.S. drought in 56 years intensified over the past week as above-normal temperatures and scant rainfall parched corn and soybean crops across the Midwest and central Plains, a report from climate experts said on Thursday.

The drought became more severe in the southern United States as well, just a year removed from a record-breaking dry spell that ruined crops and wilted grazing pastures across Texas and Oklahoma enough to force an unprecedented northward migration of cattle.

Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States was under some level of drought as of July 31, more than a fifth of it classified as extreme drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly report compiled by U.S. climate experts.

(Additional reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and Bob Burgdorfer)