“The Edge of Drought” sounds like a soap opera or a catchy book title. However, southern Illinois is on the edge of a much larger drought in the southern US. The US Drought Monitor just released their latest map on Thursday, showing some of the southernmost counties in D1 (moderate drought). Other areas of Illinois are labeled D0 (abnormally dry).
Here is a closer look at the Midwest where you can see the counties in Illinois.
Because this is in fall, the impacts of drought are rather muted. So far there are no impacts on water supplies. However, there might be impacts on winter wheat and cover crops. Several counties in Kentucky and Indiana have had burn bans, as well as a few locations in Illinois.
So what happened?
After a wet summer, this fall has been abnormally warm and dry. Here are the temperature and precipitation departures from normal since October 1 (click to enlarge). Rainfall was down 4 to 6 inches from normal in southern Illinois while temperatures were about 6 degrees above normal. The good news is that temperatures have really cooled off over the weekend and recent sub-freezing weather has brought the growing season to a close. Therefore, the demand on soil moisture and water supplies will be much lower. I rarely get worried about drought in the late fall and winter because of that.
And the forecast?
We are currently experiencing La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean. The drought outlook from the National Weather Service indicates that the southeastern drought is expected to persist this winter as there is an increased chance of drier than normal conditions in that area. As discussed in an earlier blog post, the NWS outlook for this winter has much of Illinois with an increased chance of above-normal precipitation. If this pans out, drought is not likely to spread in Illinois anytime soon.