Drought encompasses all of Indiana; strengthens grip on Ohio
By Jennifer Stewart and Tracy Turner
Weekend rains forecast for Indiana and Ohio could bring welcome relief to farmers but not enough to bring either state out of drought, say Purdue University and Ohio State University experts.
Instead, it would take much more than just a few storms to end drought conditions that have hindered development of some crops and lowered waterways.
“We could see some decent rainfall, but as of right now, this does not look like a drought-buster,” said Austin Pearson, student research assistant for the Indiana State Climate Office, based at Purdue
( http://iclimate.org ). “In order to bring us out of this drought, we’re really going to need several sufficient rainfalls over a long period of time.”
All 92 of Indiana’s counties are encompassed in some level of drought, ranging from moderate to exceptional, with a majority of the state rated severe to extreme, according to Thursday’s update of the U.S. Drought Monitor ( http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ ).
A majority of Ohio is in moderate drought, with the western edge of the state experiencing severe drought. Some Ohio counties in the southeastern and southwestern portions of the state are rated abnormally dry - a drought-watch category.
The reason both states are in drought has to do with the typical summer high-pressure system that sits over the central U.S., said Jeff Rogers, Ohio state climatologist and Ohio State professor of geography. This year, the high-pressure system is much stronger than usual, preventing moisture from getting into the region.
A very slight shift in the jet stream this week is the driving force behind rain that is heading to both states over the weekend. But according to both Pearson and Rogers, it won’t be enough.
“The long-term forecast for the next month or two calls for the expectation of higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-normal precipitation,” Rogers said. “The current forecast expectation is for the drought to continue and potentially get worse.”
Conditions in Indiana already have been labeled the worst drought since 1988, with some indications 2012 could end up worse.
Without much more precipitation, Rogers said Ohio could also reach conditions similar to 1988.
In both states, the drought of 1988 brought decreased corn, soybean and wheat production; widespread failure of hay cuttings; increased slaughter of livestock due to feed shortages and lower prices; increased insect activity and more crop disease; and increased livestock heat stress.
As of July 8, 36 percent of Ohio’s corn crop and 36 percent of its soybean crop were rated in poor or very poor condition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the same report, 61 percent of Indiana’s corn crop and 51 percent of the state’s soybean crop were rated poor or very poor.
A compilation of Purdue Extension drought resources is available at http://purdue.edu/drought/ . Ohio drought resources are available via the C.O.R.N. Newsletter at http://corn.osu.edu/ or via OSU Extension at http://extension.osu.edu/ .