Southeastern Iowa experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions

(Chris Fenimore, NOAA/NESDIS/NCEI)
(Chris Fenimore / NOAA/NESDIS/NCEI)
Nick Fetty | June 21, 2016

About 14 percent of Iowa experienced abnormal dryness during the early part of June and since then that percentage has nearly doubled.

Data from the Drought Mitigation Center show that Iowa’s southeast corner is the driest region in the state. This region includes much of the area south of Interstate 80 and east of Interstate 35.

Drought intensity is measured on a five-point scale from “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought” to “severe drought” to “extreme drought” and finally “exceptional drought.” The Hawkeye State has not experienced severe or extreme drought since 2012.

Dr. Deborah Bathke, a climatologist with the Lincoln, Nebraska-based Drought Mitigation Center, warmed that if the current weather conditions continue it may lead to a “flash drought.”

“If we continue to see these high temperatures and lack of precipitation, I can see us quickly evolving into what we like to call a ‘flash drought,’ which is when we have this rapid onset of high temperatures combined with a lack of precipitation that really starts to desiccate our soils and stunt our crop growth,” Dr. Bathke told Radio Iowa.

Soil conditions have also varied across Iowa with most of the northern third of the state experiencing “adequate to surplus” levels of moisture in topsoil compared to southeast Iowa where over 60 percent of topsoil moisture levels were rated “short to very short,” according to the most recent Iowa Crop Progress & Condition report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Despite the hot and dry conditions in southeast Iowa, the USDA report found that statewide just 4 percent of Iowa’s corn land is classified as “poor” or “very poor” while 3 percent of soybean land falls into those same categories.

Iowa farmers hope for more precipitation in August

Nick Fetty | August 7, 2014
Image via Iowa Environmental Mesonet
Image via Iowa Environmental Mesonet

After excessive precipitation in June, July saw a bit of a dry spell, so Iowa farmers are hoping for a little more rainfall in August.

Heavy rainfall yesterday dropped more than 6 inches of rain on portions of western Iowa while much of the east side of the state saw less than an inch. Prior to Wednesday’s showers, there was less than an inch of rain during the previous three weeks which raised concerns for farmers. While July saw lower than average precipitation levels, temperatures were also lower than average which meant crops and other vegetation required less water.

According to this week’s USDA crop update, 77 percent of Iowa’s corn and 74 percent of the soy bean crop are rated as good or excellent. The report also finds that Iowa’s pastures and ranges are struggling the most with 8 percent classified as poor or very poor.

A chance of scattered showers are in the forecast for the rest of the day today while the weekend looks to be mostly dry.

Iowa water levels in good shape for 2014


PHoto by Carl Wycoff (Flickr)
Photo by Carl Wycoff (Flickr)

Normal snow levels over the winter season and cooler spring temperatures may lead to a more moderate 2014 in Iowa, according to state water and climate experts.

In an interview with KCRG, Mike Gannon of the University of Iowa’s IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering labs said that Iowa saw normal snowfall in the winter period and normal rainfall over the past few weeks, in contrast to roller coaster precipitation levels over the past three years. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources uses groundwater monitoring stations across the state to assess water quality, drought levels and future water supply.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker told KCRG that lower temperatures have also contributed to stable groundwater levels by preventing groundwater from evaporating too quickly.

In addition to groundwater, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources also monitors Iowa’s lakes, wetlands, streams and beaches.

How Iowans adjust to climate change

2012 derecho; Photo by Meridith112, Flickr.
2012 derecho;
Photo by Meridith112, Flickr.

KWWL’s Special Assignment Report this week was focused on Iowa’s changing climate.

Between 2012’s drought and severe storms like those that rolled through the area on Sunday, Iowa is in the midst of change.

Jerry Schnoor, co-director of CGRER, says Iowa can expect to be warmer and wetter in the coming years.

While cities and farmers alike are adapting to increased flood risks, people everywhere need to think about sustainability in every aspect.

Mainly, citizens need to start reducing their dependence on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere to truly adapt to our changing climate.

To watch the segment and read the story, head to KWWL. 

America’s risk for water scarcity linked to drought conditions

Photo by Burning Rubber; Flickr

A new report from Columbia University’s Water Center reveals that some of America’s businesses and cities are undergoing a much greater risk than before of water scarcity. Continue reading