Iowa’s long-range forecast: Flood risk is low, drought will likely continue

Ag/Outdoor, News, Weather

February 22nd, 2013 by Ric Hanson

There are no surprises in the statewide outlook being issued for the spring flood season. Jeff Zogg, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in metro Des Moines, says it appears the drought that plagued Iowa most of last year will continue into 2013. One upside of that is — flooding is less likely. “The spring flood risk is lower than normal statewide, however, across the north-central part of the state, there’s a little bit of a different situation,” Zogg says. “We have a combination of frozen ground and some ice in the upper layers of the soil which may result in more runoff than we’d otherwise expect once the snow melts and we get any kind of rainfall in the spring.”

While 2012 was one of Iowa’s driest years in decades, the report indicates there’s no alteration in course coming in the weeks ahead. “Since the risk of flooding is lower than normal, that just infers that the drought conditions are continuing,” Zogg says. “We see no indications right now that there’s going to be a significant change in the dry conditions we’ve been experiencing.”

The worst drought conditions are in the northwest half of Iowa. The state’s snow pack is below-normal, except for the upper-most portion of the Des Moines River basin in southwest Minnesota where it is above normal. For Iowa’s farmers, the report means more headaches and scanning the skies, praying for rain. “The soil moisture conditions statewide are below normal,” Zogg says. “They’re driest across the northwest part of the state and a little bit closer to normal across the southeast part of Iowa and that’s been the theme since last summer.”

A report in December claimed Iowa would need eight feet of snow this winter to make up for the rainfall we lacked all of last year. Zogg isn’t sure about that eight-foot figure but says the end result is still the same. “The fact of the matter is, we are definitely dry and we are going to need a prolonged period of above-normal precipitation to end the drought,” Zogg says. “Unfortunately, with snowfall, the water content is lower obviously than if it falls as rain, so snowfall itself won’t make much of an impact. It’s also important that we don’t receive it all at once, especially as rainfall, because that will result in flooding.”

(Radio Iowa)