Field cracked and dry because of droughtWinter is typically not a time when drought is a major concern. But that’s different this year, as there’s mounting evidence that drought conditions are growing or worsening in a significant portion of the lower 48 U.S. states. Though La Niña is expected to slowly begin weakening in the Pacific Ocean in the weeks ahead, it will still continue to impact the prospects for badly needed moisture in places like the Southwest and Great Plains, where the drought is contributing to grass fires in places like Nebraska. The Pacific Northwest and eastern Corn Belt through the Northeast are the exceptions where ample moisture is expected through early spring. But some forecasters are starting to draw growing parallels between this year’s drought conditions and those that preceded the devastating drought during the 2012 crop year. See more of what forecasters are watching.