Monthly Archives: March 2013

Good News on Soil Moisture

The Illinois Weather and Crops report was released today by the USDA. As of March 24, the statewide topsoil moisture looked great with 81 percent “adequate” and 11 percent “surplus”. There was some lingering dryness across central Illinois. However, that was before Sunday’s storm that dropped a lot of snow whose water content ranged from 0.5 to 1.5 inches in that region.

Subsoil soil moisture was a little more pessimistic. Statewide numbers included 11 percent “very short”, 26 percent “short”, 58 percent “adequate”, and only 5 percent “surplus”. Some of the lowest numbers were in the northern and western part of the state. Subsoil moisture is not critical in the spring but provides a useful reserve, or cushion, during periods of dry weather in the summer.

The Illinois Weather and Crops is coming off it’s typical winter schedule of once per month to it’s growing season schedule of once a week. The reports can be found here. You can get the reports automatically by subscribing here.

Table from the USDA report, click to enlarge. 


Guidelines on soil moisture (USDA)

Topsoil is defined as the top six inches. Subsoil is defined as the area from six inches below the surface to a depth of three to four feet.

Very Short – Soil moisture supplies are significantly less than what is required for normal plant development. Growth has been stopped or nearly so and plants are showing visible signs of moisture stress. Under these conditions, plants will quickly suffer irreparable damage.

Short – Soil dry. Seed germination and/or normal crop growth and development would be curtailed.

Adequate – Soil moist. Seed germination and/or crop growth and development would be normal or unhindered.

Surplus – Soil wet. Fields may be muddy and will generally be unable to absorb additional moisture. Young developing crops may be yellowing from excess moisture.

Snowfall Map from the March 24-25 Snowstorm

Here is a great product from the NWS ( showing the snowfall totals of the last two days. I chose the last two days since some snow from the event fell before 7 am on Sunday. The heaviest amounts were concentrated over central Illinois, including 18.5 inches at Springfield. It was very impressive for a late season snowfall. NWS Lincoln has a listing of the snowfall totals from the storm.


Semi-official snowfall total for Champaign-Urbana

I measured 12.7 inches of snow at my house, which is 3 miles west of the official site for Champaign-Urbana (on the corner of 1st and Windsor). Until I can get into work, that will be the semi-official snowfall total for C-U.

[Update] I took measurements at the official site this morning at 10 am and we ended up with 11.5 inches of snow. That brings our monthly snowfall total up to 16.4 inches. Amazingly, that is not the snowiest March on record for C-U. The snowiest was 1906 with 32.0 inches. The second snowiest was 1960 with 20.9 inches.

Also, this brings our season snowfall total to 23.2 inches, which is right at the 1981-2010 average.

Jim Angel

Illinois Drought Free

According to the US Drought Monitor, Illinois is now drought free for the first time since April 3, 2012. Most areas in Illinois have seen positive responses in soil moisture, stream flows, lake levels, and groundwater levels since the fall. A small area of northwest Illinois remains as abnormally dry due to some lingering concerns about subsoil moisture and groundwater levels in that area.


Illinois Soil Temperatures – Then and Now

You can find 4 and 8-inch soil temperatures for Illinois on the Water Survey’s web site at These data are from a network of 19 sites around Illinois that is maintained by the Survey.

Below are the maps of what the 4-inch soil temperatures looked like on Wednesday and a year ago on the same date. This year the soil temperatures are barely above freezing in northern Illinois and barely above 40 degrees in southern Illinois. On the same date in 2012, the 4-inch soil temperatures were in the upper 50s and lower 60s across the state.