A climatologist who studies drought conditions says a “bulls eye of dryness” is centered on the nation’s midsection. Mark Svoboda is with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln.
“This is kind of what we call a drought feeding on itself and I think we have the potential to really escalate this drought in the summer if we don’t get the rainfall they’re calling for over the next five days,” Svoboda says. “So if there’s any silver lining in the cloud — or lack of clouds, if you will — this exact region — we need that heavy rainfall forecasted over the next five days for this very region, the bulls eye of this dryness, because right now it looks like July, early August out there.”
Svoboda says there’s a misconception that farmers who irrigate their fields are immune to drought.
“Actually what happens is they have to pump 24/7. With fuel prices what they’ve been, it costs a lot more to pump that water up when you’re talking a 24/7 schedule and then equipment breaks down more often when you have to use it more often,” Svoboda says. “So once you’ve got the planting done, you like the dryness then, of course, but you really want to see cooler temperatures that what we’ve seen over the May-June time frame rather than having to worry about just irrigating full-bore 24/7.”
Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana have had a significant “dry down” according to Svoboda, because there was little snow fall in the winter and a relatively dry spring.
“But the temperatures have been the real story,” Svoboda says, “so when we look at temperature departures over the last, say, three months, we’re seeing temperatures eight to 10 degrees or more above normal across eastern Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.”
The most severe Midwest drought in recent memory happened in 1988 and ’89. Normal rainfall for this time of year is about an inch per week, according to Svoboda, and it would require significant rainfall this week to erase the moisture deficit in much of the Midwest.
“This rain this weekend, this next couple of days, is pretty darned critical to sort of tell us how we’re sitting in late June, early July,” Svoboda says. “…We have no soil moisture down to three feet virtually everywhere. When people are talking about digging posts and doing work out in their yards — and I’ve seen this myself personally, too — I mean, there’s virtually nothing down to three or four feet.”
The National Drought Mitigation Center is based at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.