FARGO - Nearly 25 percent of North Dakota is now in a moderate drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

And with changes in weather patterns, the drought may well deepen in coming weeks, State Climatologist Adnan Akyuz said Friday, June 2.

Much of the moderate drought conditions are in the south-central part of the state, with areas reaching into the southeast, including Cass and Richland counties.

Other counties listed as being in moderate drought are Bottineau, Renville, Ward, McHenry,

McLean, Mercer, Oliver, Burleigh, Morton, Grant, Sioux, Emmons, Kidder, Stutsman, Barnes,Logan, McIntosh, LaMoure, Dickey, Ransom and Sargent, according to the state climate office at North Dakota State University

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The remainder of North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota and eastern Montana are abnormally dry, the Drought Monitor indicates.

"As the drought conditions are worsening in some parts, they are developing or showing early signs of drought in other parts of the state," said Akyuz, who also is a professor of climatological practice at North Dakota State University.

He said that in the next two to four weeks, he doesn't expect to see significant precipitation in the region due to changes in the jet stream winds.

"That is not indicating favorable precipitation that might rescue us," Akyuz said, which could mean a deepening of drought conditions in some areas.

Rising late-spring temperatures are also drying out the soil, accelerating drought conditions, he said.

While storm systems have moved through the area in the last few weeks, the rains they've dropped have been spotty, with most areas only getting one- or two-tenths of an inch of rain, he said, not enough to be of great help for seeds planted after a wet and cool early spring delayed planting.

What has helped prevent the drought from being even worse was the rain and snow received before March, Akyuz said.

North Dakota went through its ninth-wettest six-month period, ending in February.

Fargo had its 22nd-wettest fall and the 14th-wettest winter, Akyuz said.

Then the precipitation pattern changed, though cool temperatures masked that, so "we didn't feel that someone had turned off the faucet," he said.

All of the state has had less-than-average precipitation in the last three months, with parts of central and south-central North Dakota getting 25 to 50 percent of normal precipitation - or less - during this period, the state climate office reports.

The result has been that this spring, so far, has been the 15th driest in Fargo, seventh driest in Bismarck, 10th driest in Minot and 17th driest in Jamestown.

High winds are causing topsoil to dry out quickly, and causing it to drift, with blowing dust seen in the central part of the state.

"If average temperatures were not as cool as they have been, and if we did not follow a significantly wet six-month period," drought conditions could have been "much harsher," Akyuz said.

He predicted dry conditions will persist throughout the summer.

The Drought Monitor is produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Visit droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ to see the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map.