The rain has finally moved into Illinois this morning. According to the National Weather Service, widespread heavy rain is expected to continue in Illinois over the next 3 days. Here is the forecast map for Tuesday morning showing a large storm moving across the central US. Rain is likely from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to the western Great Lakes. Snow is likely in the Plains states (areas in blue). However, we will likely be too warm in Illinois to see snowfall.
There is an inside joke for those of us who work with the folks at the US Drought Monitor. If you want to make it rain (or snow), just put an area in D0 “abnormally dry” and the heavens will open up. That’s basically what happened this week – the rain and snow in Illinois reduced the concern of dry conditions across the state. As a result, the D0 in northern and western Illinois has been removed.
Here are the monthly temperature and precipitation departures for the state of Illinois since 2011. Departures are from the long-term average (1981-2010). A few of the outstanding features were:
- outstanding warming from July 2011 to July 2012;
- a wet start to 2011 and 2013;
- drought in 2012, starting in January 2012 and staying in parts of Illinois through at least the end of the year.
Before becoming too complacent about growing conditions this summer, we should remember that we started out with wet conditions in 2011 before a flash drought arrived in July and August. The combination of hot, dry conditions – especially in central Illinois – led to crop losses by the end of August of that year.
Here are the monthly temperature and precipitation departures from the long-term average by month in Illinois for 2013. After a warmer-than-average January, temperatures have been below-average in February, March, and April. Monthly precipitation has been above-average in January, February, and April, but slightly below-average in March.
This is a far cry from the first four months of 2012 which were noteworthy for being both above-average on temperatures and below-average on precipitation. See the second pair of figures for 2012.
This April was the 4th wettest on record for Illinois with 6.90 inches, based on the preliminary numbers. That was 3.13 inches above the long-term average of 3.77 inches.
To show you how wet it was, this April easily beat out the combined statewide rainfall totals for Illinois in May, June, and July of 2012 during the worst of the drought. The total rainfall for those months in 2012 were 2.50 inches, 1.80 inches, 1.48 inches, respectively, which led to a total of only 5.78 inches. That was 1.12 inches less than this April!
The first map below shows the spectacular rainfall totals across much of the state. The areas in yellow and orange were 6 to 9 inches. A few areas in pink and red were 9 to 11 inches. This product has a 4 kilometer resolution and is based on radar estimates calibrated with rain gauges.
The second map shows the same rainfall amounts expressed as a percentage of the long-term average. There was a small patch of below-average rainfall in far southern Illinois. Otherwise the rainfall across the rest of the state was much above average. Many areas in the dark blue were 2 to 3 times their long-average rainfall.
Speaking of rain gauges, the two largest monthly totals for April so far were Augusta with 12.28 inches and Naperville with 11.03 inches. Several more stations reported totals in the 10-inch range.
There were two major impacts of the wet April. One was widespread flooding on the Illinois, Wabash, and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries. Several sites along the Illinois reported record high river crests in April. Because the flooding included the Chicago area, the dollar damages and number of people affected will be quite large.
The second impact of the wet April was the delay in fieldwork. In the April 29 USDA NASS report, only 1 percent of the corn crop was planted, compared to 76 percent last April, and a five-year average of 36 percent.
The statewide average temperature was 50.1 degrees and 2.3 degrees below average. That was not record-setting but reflects the fact that we had a lot of cool, cloudy days in April.
The US Corps of Engineers put out a press release today on the continued problems on the Missouri River due to the drought. From the release,
Based on the current soil moisture and snowpack conditions, 2013 runoff in the Missouri River basin above Sioux City, Iowa is forecast to be 20.5 million acre feet, 81 percent of normal. Runoff for the month of March was 55 percent of normal.
At this time, 75 percent of the Missouri River Basin is in some stage of drought according to the US Drought Monitor. In addition 52 percent of the Upper Mississippi River Basin (above St. Louis) is in drought. See map below. Closer to home, recent rains and melted snow have kept the Mississippi River on the western boundary of Illinois in good shape this spring.
We have had a remarkable contrast in the last two winters in terms of precipitation. While both winters have been relatively quiet in terms of snow (at least up until the last week), this winter has made up for it in rainfall.
Here are the January 1 to February 25 precipitation departure maps for 2012 (first figure) and 2013 (second figure) for the Midwest. Precipitation is the combination of rainfall and the water content of any snow/sleet/freezing rain events.
Areas in shades of yellow show below-average precipitation while areas in shades of green show above-average precipitation. As you can see, the widespread yellow in 2012 was replaced with widespread green in 2013. This is good news for Illinois and for the Midwest.