OTTUMWA — Drought conditions remained basically unchanged in Iowa over the past week with only minor shifts across the state.
Most of southeast Iowa remains in severe drought. That includes all of Mahaska, Marion, Keokuk, Wapello, Jefferson and Van Buren counties, as well as most of Monroe and Davis counties. Appanoose County is the exception, with most of its land in moderate drought.
Almost 79 percent of Iowa is in moderate drought, and more than a third of the state is in severe drought. Much smaller areas are completely free of drought conditions (5.32 percent of the state) or extreme drought (1.76 percent).
While the weekly numbers barely budged, conditions have varied wildly since the beginning of the year. Back in January, parts of the state were in exceptional drought, the most serious category used by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The entire state was in moderate drought.
But as recently as three months ago, less than one percent of Iowa was considered unusually dry. Only one one-hundredth of the state was in moderate drought as the summer began. But 2013 saw a wet spring turn into one of the driest summers on record.
Rains have returned to the state over the past couple weeks, though not enough to come anywhere close to normal. Forecasters believe there will be additional chances for rain in the next several days, especially Friday night and Saturday morning.
But it may be increasingly difficult to get a good idea of how the drought impacts Iowa farming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks that, and those reports will not be filed as long as the government shutdown remains in effect.