Iowa's drought shows relatively little change this week after last week's major improvement. But a look at the state six months ago and one year ago shows how much has changed.
Iowa's drought started in the northwest last year. In mid-March 2012, only the northwestern one-third of Iowa was considered to be in drought. A large portion of the affected area was already in severe drought, but most of the state was within normal ranges for moisture.
Fast forward six months and the picture is quite different. Most of Iowa was in an extreme drought and a portion of northwestern Iowa was in exceptional drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor's highest category. Crops that had looked good early in the year failed, with corn stalks burned into the ground by lack of rain and a dead brown replacing what should have been green.
This week's map shows conditions considerably improved from September 2012, but still far worse than a year ago. Severe drought has been washed from southeastern Iowa, replaced with "abnormally dry" ratings. But pockets of severe drought persist in northern and western Iowa. Only the tiniest of slivers in northeastern Iowa near the Mississippi River is completely out of the drought.
The National Weather Service forecasts an above average chance for a wet spring in most of Iowa. But that's far from a guarantee. In order for the state to recover, rainfall must be at or above normal for a sustained period.
That has happened for the last few months. Iowans are certainly hoping it stays that way.