February 11, 2016

Drought sitting over Corn Belt will be staying for awhile (AUDIO)

An expert on droughts says the one that has settled over the Corn Belt isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

National Drought Mitigation Center Director Michael Hayes says a big ridge of high pressure has built up over the central United States, diverting rain elsewhere. Hayes says the forecast calls for hot and dry conditions into October.

“Maybe there’s some hope beyond that, but it’s a little bit early to say,” Hayes tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, that’s not the best news, certainly. Those are expectations. Those outlooks can change and we certainly hope that’s the case.”

The beginning of this drought, according to Hayes, can be traced to this past winter. Warmer than normal temperatures and abnormally low snowfall depleted moisture from the soil, making it vulnerable to the dry and hot conditions of this summer.

As the drought lingers, worries about its effect grow. The Platte River is low. Irrigation and residential water needs are putting pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer.

Hayes, who works on the University of Nebraska Lincoln East Campus, says it’s important to keep in mind that, so far, this is a severe one-year event. He’s not worried about long-term problems, yet.

“If this were to extend into a second year or a third year, then we certainly would have more of those concerns,” Hayes says.

Hayes points out that Nebraska received more than adequate rainfall from 2007 until last year. Hayes says this drought is most comparable to the 1988 drought.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]

 AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Michael Hayes, Director, National Drought Mitigation Center [4 min.]

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