Dry winter forecast for already shallow Mississippi River

Long range weather forecasts are predicting that low water levels on the Mississippi River are likely to persist through into the winter as a result of drier-than-normal weather being expected across the southern United States and Gulf Coast. About 60% of US grain exports exit the country via the Gulf Coast.

Drought currently spans nearly 60% of the US and is expected to continue or worsen in the middle and lower Mississippi River valley as well as in much of the West and the Great Plains, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Centre said in its December-to-February outlook.

Greater than average levels of rain are expected in the Midwest and the Ohio River valley, which could provide some relief to Mississippi later in the winter, NOAA said.

Water levels on the Mississippi River have already dropped to historic lows and have at times halted barge shipments of grain, fertilizer, coal and other commodities.

NOAA forecasters are also predicting drought conditions will persist or worsen in the West and in the southern plains farm belt.