The latest U.S. Drought Monitor
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Across the Corn Belt, dry weather remains favorable for corn and soybean harvesting and winter wheat planting. However, soil moisture has become limited for some recently planted soft red winter wheat. Cooler air is overspreading the Great Lakes region, where scattered frost was reported Thursday morning. On the Plains, summer crop harvesting and winter wheat planting activities continue amid a warm, dry weather regime. However, winter wheat emergence delays have been noted in several states, including Nebraska (33% emerged, compared to the 5-year average of 49%), likely due to unfavorable dryness. On October 4, topsoil moisture was rated at least 60% very short to short in each of the Plains States from Oklahoma northward. In the South, producers in the Mississippi Delta and central Gulf Coast region are bracing for Hurricane Delta. At 7 am CDT, early Thursday morning, the hurricane was centered 425 miles south of Cameron, Louisiana, moving toward the northwest at 15 mph. Where possible, producers in the path of the storm are harvesting crops such as cotton, rice, soybeans, and sugarcane. In the West, drought continues to expand and intensify, with adverse impacts on rangeland, pastures, and native vegetation. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, 77% of the 11-state Western region was in drought on October 6. Western coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4) has increased to 35%, up from 5% just 3 months ago. Hurricane Delta is bound for the Louisiana coast, with landfall expected on Friday afternoon or evening. Delta’s arrival will occur in proximity to, and just six weeks after, Category 4 Hurricane Laura devastated southwestern Louisiana with 150 mph winds. Although Delta is not expected to become as strong as Laura, recovery efforts are still ongoing across the hardest-hit areas, resulting in higher-than-usual vulnerability to high winds, heavy rain, and a coastal storm surge. As Hurricane Delta moves inland across Louisiana, rainfall could total 5 to 10 inches, with locally higher amounts. Totals of 3 to 6 inches or more are expected in the Mississippi Delta, while 1- to 3-inch totals may occur as far north as the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic. Meanwhile, a pattern change in the Northwest will result in much-needed rain, starting on Friday. However, mostly dry conditions will persist across large sections of California, the Great Basin, and the Southwest, despite the arrival of cooler air. As cooler air overspreads the West, warmth will expand eastward, resulting in several days of summer-like weather across the Plains and Midwest. By early next week, however, a cold front will sweep across the Plains and Midwest, preceded and accompanied by scattered showers. Looking ahead, the 6- to 10-day outlook calls for near- or above-normal temperatures nationwide. The likelihood of warm weather will be greatest in the Northeast and Far West. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal precipitation in the lower Southeast and from the Pacific Coast to the Plains will contrast with wetter-than-normal weather across much of the eastern one-third of the U.S.

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Greg Soulje, a professional meteorologist since 1985, offers national agricultural weather forecasts via "This Week in Agribusiness."