Home Futures and Commodities Mississippi River’s persistent low water levels continue despite improved southern US drought forecasts, says NOAA.

Mississippi River’s persistent low water levels continue despite improved southern US drought forecasts, says NOAA.

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Mississippi River’s persistent low water levels continue despite improved southern US drought forecasts, says NOAA.

Low Water Levels on Mississippi River Expected to Persist Despite Improved Drought Outlook

Low Water Levels Pose Challenges

Low water levels on the lower Mississippi River are expected to continue through January, despite anticipated above-normal precipitation in the southern United States this winter, according to forecasters from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This persistent issue is causing concerns for navigation and agriculture.

Improving Drought Conditions

The severe to exceptional drought currently affecting the lower Mississippi River valley is expected to alleviate during the winter months due to the El Nino weather pattern, which will bring better rains to the region. NOAA’s U.S. winter weather outlook suggests an improvement in the drought situation.

Challenges in River Recovery

However, the recovery of the Mississippi River may face challenges due to lingering drought in the upper Midwest. Forecasts indicate normal to below-normal precipitation in areas that supply tributaries like the Illinois and Ohio rivers. This could slow down the Mississippi River’s recovery process.

Impact on Exports

The low water levels have already had a significant impact on export-bound barge shipments of grain from the Midwest farm belt for the second consecutive year. This situation has made U.S. exports of corn and soybeans less competitive in the global market.

Slow Recovery Expected

While improving drought conditions are expected for the lower to middle Mississippi Valley in the coming months, hydrological impacts such as low river levels and ground water levels will take longer to recover. NOAA’s Brad Pugh, operational drought lead with the Climate Prediction Center, explained that the hydrological impacts may persist beyond January.

Record Low Water Levels

On Monday, the Mississippi River reached an all-time low at the Memphis, Tennessee river gauge, surpassing the previous record set nearly a year ago. This shallow condition has prompted barge shippers to limit the amount of grain they transport to avoid getting stuck in the drought-parched waterway.

Navigation Challenges

Navigation on the lower Mississippi River has been periodically affected over the past few weeks due to vessel groundings and dredging operations conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the channel in response to low spots caused by the drought.

The challenges posed by low water levels on the Mississippi River continue to impact various sectors, including agriculture and transportation. While there are expectations of improved drought conditions, the recovery process may take longer due to the persistent drought in other regions. These conditions highlight the need for ongoing monitoring and management of the river’s water levels to ensure continued navigation and economic activities along its course.