Missouri is drier than last year, DNR drought committee reports

April 22, 2024



While there have been some improvements to Missouri’s drought conditions, the state is still drier than last year, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Drought Assessment Committee has reported.

The committee met Wednesday to discuss drought updates from March and long-term predictions for the summer. Missouri is entering its third year of drought-like conditions statewide, said Zachary Leasor, a state climatologist with MU Extension.

Drought-like conditions have increased from last spring. From January to March, precipitation was 0.37 inches below average with February being the ninth driest on record, according to the committee. However, some improvements to conditions have been documented, particularly in southeast Missouri.

The current Drought Severity and Coverage Index — a number between zero to 500, with a higher score meaning more widespread drought conditions — is 106, which is down from 150 in early March.

Despite this, the overall state of drought is “a mix of deterioration and improvement” in various areas of the state, Leasor said.

March saw near-normal to above-average rainfall, DNR Director Dru Buntin said. In the last seven days, the heaviest precipitation was seen in southeast Missouri. Boone County and central Missouri saw the least of this rainfall along with northwest Missouri, said Mark Fuchs, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

Statewide rainfall is predicted to continue into May, making it the wettest month of the year. There is a 33-50% chance Missouri will experience above normal precipitation for April, May and June, according to the National Weather Service.

The rainy season is important for avoiding drought-like conditions later in the year and is crucial for Missouri’s economy, committee members said. Chris Klenklen of the Missouri Department of Agriculture reported that the state is ahead of the average in planting corn and soybeans this year, with 26% of the state’s corn already planted.

Monthly streamflow was also below normal in most of the state in March, in comparison to almost all of the state being at or above normal during March last year, according to the Central Midwest Water Science Center.

In response to continued natural disasters such as drought, Gov. Mike Parson included a recommendation for $3.5 million toward an Agricultural Resiliency Disaster Response Fund in the 2025 state budget. In May 2023, Parson issued an executive order declaring a drought alert. The dry conditions have affected soil moisture and caused farmers to change their planting habits, according to previous Missourian reporting.

The DNR’s Soil and Water Districts Commission has obligated over $3.6 million to landowners and cooperators to mitigate the effects of drought. The department’s Water Protection Program is monitoring public drinking water reservoirs and the Climate and Weather Subcommittee will continue to monitor weather conditions.