Dry Plains March Forecast

These two disturbances are essentially the only precipitation chances for the growing regions east of the Rockies through March 9. A weak system March 8 may bring some isolated showers to the Plains and Midwest, but models are not very high on this prospect.

With temperatures rising above normal for much of the middle of the country during the next two weeks, we should see more winter wheat coming out of dormancy. In the western Plains, the drought in the region will be a large concern and more moisture is needed to support green-up.

But prospects are not promising for the rest of March. For the southwestern Plains, the minor system this week will likely be the only significant chance for moderate moisture until April, if you can believe the extended models.

Forecast models do produce strong systems moving out of the Rockies and through the Midwest this month, sometimes in rapid succession, but the track of these storms is important. Moderate precipitation events across the High Plains rely on easterly upsloping winds into the Rockies. The air being forced upward cools and produces precipitation. The opposite is true with westerly downslope winds. Air descending a mountain slope warms and dries. To get the upslope flow as a system moves through, the low pressure needs to be to the region’s south as air flows counterclockwise around the center. When storm centers are located to the north, dry downslope winds are the result.

Keeping that track description in mind, the tracks for the predicted storms during the rest of March tend to be from Wyoming or northern Colorado, leaving the growing regions from southern Colorado to southwest Kansas and points southward rather dry.

These “Colorado Low” systems, as they are sometimes called, are better precipitation producers for the eastern Plains and Midwest. This bodes well for some of the pockets of dryness in the western Midwest and Northern Plains instead. However, these systems do not line up until the middle to end of next week, and models may develop these storms differently than the current forecast.

John Baranick can be reached at

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