Drought conditions remain unchanged in Nebraska and Iowa as the region grinds its way through the winter, and there's little hope of relief in the early spring.
For now, the only glimmer of good news for the Midlands is rain in the south and southeastern U.S., said Brian Fuchs, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Drought conditions have improved across Louisiana and Arkansas. They are expected to further improve in parts of Texas and Oklahoma and the southeast due to a major storm moving through. About 1 to 5 inches of rain are forecast across the southeastern third of the U.S. during the coming week.
As long as those areas are abnormally dry, they sap northward-flowing warm, moist Gulf of Mexico air, Fuchs said. That Gulf flow is this region's best source of rainy weather.
The other important source of water for this region isn't doing as well. Snowpack in the Rocky Mountains remains behind schedule, which, if it continues, could impact streamflows through Nebraska.
“We're going to be talking about drought in 2013, even if we would start putting a dent into some of the deficits we have,” Fuchs said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, a nationwide update the center publishes each Thursday, shows a barely noteworthy improvement. This week, drought covers about 60.3 percent of the lower 48 states; last week it covered about 61.1 percent.