Iowa Climatologist Harry Hillaker paid a visit to Atlantic, Tuesday, speaking to a group at the Cass County Community Center. He also sat down with KJAN’s Jim Field, to discuss the drought, and chances for rain this year. Hillaker says last Summer, Atlantic made the record books for the least amount of precipitation in one month. The trace of rain we received at KJAN…the official National Weather Service reporting site for Atlantic…tied the record for the lowest rainfall in July.
He says following a good start to the growing season, with above normal precipitation in June, July was a terrible time for the crops. Still, he says overall Iowa’s crops weathered the hot dry Summer without much difficulty. He said “It wasn’t a great year by any means, but not as bad as, in most cases, what people would have guessed.” Hillaker says the concern now is with what this year has in store. He said “Iowa is kind of blessed, in that it has such good soils,” with a high-capacity to hold any moisture it receives. Eastern Iowa he says, fared better than the southwest part of the state precipitation-wise over the Fall and Winter, but the picture doesn’t look all that bad for us for now, anyway.
He said things were in the “ballpark of normal” last Fall…dry, but not extremely dry…certainly not as bad as 2011. Hillaker says any moisture we did get made its way into the ground. And, there’s still the months of March and April ahead of us, as well as parts of May, before the soil starts to use up the moisture it has stored. He says there’s a 50-50 chance we’ll be in “pretty good shape” locally, for soil moisture to start off the season. Hillaker says far northwest Iowa, northwest of a Sioux City to Mason City line, has had an extremely dry fall, and it would be a stretch for even a “normal” amount of precipitation to turn that situation around this Spring.
He says looking back at the drought records, they’ve found 20 other occasions where there was an unusually strong combination of heat and dryness. The records also indicated a pattern. And it’s not a very nice pattern, according to Hillaker, in that the season following a drought in Iowa, has also been on the “dry side of normal.” He says the rainfall may not be as low as in the previous year, and the temperature may not be as hot, but we can still expect it to be warmer than normal, and drier than normal.
He says people need to be prepared for a possible water shortage this Summer.