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Ag Weather Forum              12/02 05:00

   North Dakota Drought Comparison

   A look at two droughts just a few years apart shows the historic level of 
the 2021 drought in the Northern Plains.

Bryce Anderson
Ag Meteorologist Emeritus

   A look at the catastrophic drought which covered the U.S. Northern Plains 
and Canadian Prairies during crop year 2021 in relation to another severe 
drought just a few years ago in 2017 shows just how extensive and long-lasting 
the 2021 drought has been -- and continues to be in its impact on world wheat 
supplies.

   North Dakota state climatologist Adnan Akyuz noted in an email response to a 
question about these two drought years that the Northern Plains drought this 
past season actually began during the final months of 2020. Akyuz's comparisons 
emphasize the Drought Severity and Coverage Index (DSCI) -- a summation of 
Drought Monitor conditions that Akyuz created as a one-number way to classify 
the extent and severity of drought using Drought Monitor categories and length 
of time that those categories are in effect. The higher the number, the more 
extreme the drought situation.

   "The 2021 drought was an early onsetter," Akyuz said. "Because of it, seeds 
in drought-stricken areas did not even germinate or poorly germinated."

   Here's where the DSCI that Akyuz developed comes into stark relief for the 
North Dakota drought situation. "In 2017, the DSCI index did not reach 200 
before June 6. Comparatively, in 2021 the DSCI index was 241 on Jan. 1," Akyuz 
wrote. "We did not introduce D3 (Extreme Drought) before June 6 in 2017. During 
the 2021 drought, D3 was already in full press in December (the earliest D3 
onset on record)."

   The calculations that drive the Drought Severity and Coverage Index 
continued to post records throughout the 2021 growing season, said Akyuz. "The 
maximum DSCI value in 2021 was 393 (the highest DSCI ever), occurring on May 
18, 2021. On the other hand, the max DSCI was 295 in 2017, occurring on Aug. 
8," he said. Drought in 2021 also covered more ground. "100% of the land (in 
North Dakota) was in drought for 16 consecutive weeks from March 9, 2021 
through Aug. 24, 2021. 93% coverage in 2017 was the largest extent on Sept. 12, 
2017," he said. Akyuz places the 2021 North Dakota drought on the same level as 
droughts in 1988 and in 1936.

   Regarding damages, the total for the 2021 drought is still being figured by 
the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). But it's sure 
to be high. The NCEI total for North Dakota damage due to the 1988 drought was 
between $5 billion to $10 billion dollars -- again, just for one state. The 
damage total from drought in 2017 was between $1 billion and $2 billion dollars 
for North Dakota alone.

   So, drought year 2021 truly claims a place in the drought hall of fame.

   Background on the drought damage totals is available here: 
https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions

   For more information on the Drought Severity Coverage Index, go here:

   https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/About/AbouttheData/DSCI.aspx

   Bryce Anderson can be reached at Bryce.anderson@dtn.com

   Follow him on Twitter @BAndersonDTN




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