Recent rains ease drought for parts of region

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Recent rains have helped alleviate the drought conditions that had begun to grip the region earlier this summer, and rain forecast in the next few days could help even more.

Agronomists, meteorologists and climatologists are pointing to a somewhat-rainy June as the reason for the lessening of drought conditions, but they say those rains have been scattered, leaving soils in some areas dry while others nearby are refreshed.

Pat Guinan, a climatologist with the University of Missouri's Commercial Agriculture Program, said the rains have provided "scattered relief over the past couple of weeks or so."

"There have been some decent rain events, but by no means has that eliminated dry conditions," Guinan said.

As of mid-June Southeast Missouri was on the edge of a growing region of drought centered in the southeastern part of the country. At that time, much of the area had moisture levels considered "short" to "very short" by the USDA and NOAA, the worst in the state.

Those conditions lasted into late June, but the cumulative effects of rains during June and early July (.90 inches of rain fell on downtown Cape Girardeau on Thursday) have started to replenish soil moisture in areas lucky enough to experience rainfall. As of the last release of the USDA Drought Monitor report on July 3, the Southeast Missouri area was out of the "abnormally dry" region and into "normal." An updated report will be released Thursday.

However, the National Weather Service's Paducah, Ky., office said 50 percent of pastureland, 19 percent of the soybean crop and 21 percent of the corn crop was rated "poor" to "very poor" as of Friday.

Gerald Bryan, an agronomist with the University of Missouri Extension's Cape Girardeau County office, said the recent rains came at a perfect time for local corn crops, at least for those who got rain.

"The rains hit at a very critical time in that the corn was starting to feel the drought stresses, and when the rains came they were in a critical stage," said Bryan.

However Cape Girardeau County was still 1.37 inches below the normal June rainfall, as were most other Southeast Missouri counties.

Bryan said ideal conditions would be about 2 inches of rain on a weekly basis.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service say the region will experience below normal temperatures and at or above normal precipitation through Friday, but the long-term outlook is more uncertain.

Southern Illinois has experienced much the same, with spotty rain alleviating dry conditions in some parts of the area, but no blanket coverage. As in Southeast Missouri, those rains have helped corn crops rebound from impending drought stress, said Jim Angel, state climatologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

With rain expected today and Wednesday "we're OK for the next couple of days," Angel said.

But a lot of growing season remains, and a lot of time for a lack of precipitation to push the area toward drought conditions again.

335-6611, extension 182

Spotty rains

Rains in the past few weeks have helped alleviate local drought conditions for now. But the precipitation has been spotty, falling heavily in some places and sparsely, if at all, in others. These numbers from Southeast Missourian records illustrate the hit-and-miss nature of June and July rain. All totals are in inches. Airport observations are official National Weather Service totals.

Airport Downtown
0.23 June 18 0.84
0.35 June 19 0
0.37 June 24 2.40
trace June 26 0.86
0.29 June 28 0
0 June 30 0.20
.35 July 1 0.11
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