Iowa’s Current Drought is the Longest Since the 1950’s
According to the Iowa DNR, our state is currently facing its most prolonged drought since the 1950s, with abnormally dry and drought conditions persisting for an unprecedented 188 consecutive weeks. As the state emerges from the 16th driest November on record, the latest data reveals that December's precipitation is only 60 percent of the average, exacerbating concerns over water scarcity.
Despite some areas in southeast Iowa experiencing above-average rainfall this month, the majority of the state remains below the expected precipitation levels. Tim Hall, the Hydrology Resources Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), emphasized the critical need for moisture and has expressed serious concerns.
“At this point, any moisture we get in the state will be helpful. With conditions as dry as they are coming out of 2023 there is a real concern for hydrologic conditions moving into 2024. Low stream flows and dry soil conditions could lead to water supply challenges in the coming year.”
-Tim Hall, the Hydrology Resources Coordinator for the Iowa DNR
The impending winter months are expected to complicate drought recovery efforts, as January, typically Iowa's driest month, approaches. Dr. Justin Glisan, the State Climatologist, notes the persistence of strong El Niño conditions.
“Strong El Niño conditions are projected to persist through winter. In an El Niño winter, precipitation can be highly variable. Warmer than normal temperatures could result in more rain than snow during the winter months.”
-Dr. Justin Glisan, Iowa State Climatologist
To address these challenges, the Iowa Drought Team, comprising staff from various departments, will continue to meet over the winter months to prepare for potential drought continuation and escalation. The next Water Summary Update in January will provide a comprehensive review of 2023 conditions. This will give us an idea of the state's water resource outlook for the coming months.
In the Midwest, the limited opportunities for fall recharge have resulted in concerning drought degradation, particularly across the upper-Midwest. Despite the absence of a forecasted drought development for the contiguous United States (CONUS), the region faces increased impacts from dryness, raising apprehensions as soils and streams approach freezing temperatures. The onset of winter poses challenges for the Midwest, as the dry pattern persists, potentially intensifying the existing drought conditions. Prudent water management and conservation efforts are going to be crucial in the coming months to navigate the heightened risk of drought impacts in our vital agricultural and economic region.
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