Climatologist: Rapid recovery from drought unusual
Recent rainfall arrived too late to save most of the drought-parched crops but provided rapid recovery from the drought
Published: Sep 8, 2012
Recent rainfall arrived too late to save most of the drought-parched crops in Illinois.
But the shift in the weather pattern provided rapid recovery from the drought, particularly in the southern two-thirds of the state.
In fact, Jim Angel, state climatologist who has worked at the Illinois State Water Survey since 1984, said he can’t recall seeing such a dramatic easing of drought conditions in such a short period of time.
The majority of the state prior to Labor Day weekend was locked in extreme to exceptional drought. But last week drought ratings across the state were downgraded to moderate to severe on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen fortunes reversed so quickly,” Angel said. “This was very unusual.”
Illinois in August received an average of 3.4 inches of rain. Some areas received much more, including 10.69 inches in Grayville in the southeast and 8.33 inches in Hoopeston in East-Central Illinois.
Remnants of Hurricane Isaac followed and dumped 2 to 6-plus inches of rain on much of the southern two-thirds of the state the first two days of this month. More scattered rainfall, including pockets of heavy precipitation, soaked some parts of the state late last week.
“We have kind of broken out of the pattern we saw in the spring and early summer that was dominated by a high pressure system,” Angel said. “Now, it’s almost more fall-like.”
Unfortunately, the recent rainfall did not blanket all areas of the state.
“It (rain from the tropical depression) almost all fell south of Interstate 80,” Angel said. “We really didn’t see much improvement” in Northern Illinois.
Northern Illinois as of Friday was the driest portion of the state with a large area still in the grips of extreme drought.
Elsewhere, the situation looked much better.
“We’ve had a nice recovery of soil moisture,” Angel said. “It’s back within the range you’d expect this time of year.”
Topsoil moisture across the state last week was rated 47 percent short or very short, 51 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus. This was the largest portion of cropland with topsoil moisture rated adequate and surplus since mid-May, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Illinois field office.
“It doesn’t mean it (the recent rain) has undone all the damage already done (by the drought),” Angel said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the rain came too late to be of any benefit to the corn and most of the beans.
“It will, however, help pasture conditions. I think we’ll see a nice recovery there,” he added. “And it puts us in better shape to plant winter wheat.”
Illinois the past three months experienced the sixth-driest and eighth-warmest summer on record with average precipitation of 6.64 inches (5.21 inches below normal) and an average temperature of 76.1 degrees (2.6 degrees above normal).
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