Extreme drought spreads across Indiana, but relief in sight
By Keith Robinson
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - While drought conditions worsened in much of Indiana the past week, there is potentially good news on the horizon: rainfall chances for the remainder of July are improving.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center moved Indiana out of the below-normal rainfall category into normal for the next two weeks.
"This is something that hasn't been forecast in a long time," said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist based at Purdue University. "This is encouraging news."
July annually is the wettest month of the year in Indiana, averaging 4.10 inches of rain. Scheeringa noted that parts of Indiana received heavy rainfall Thursday (July 19).
Scorching heat, however, is expected to continue at least through July. "Extreme, high temperatures don't appear to be going away soon," Scheeringa said.
Indiana hasn't received much rain this summer because a high-pressure system essentially shut off the flow of humidity and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to Indiana and the Midwest.
"The air was very dry, and incoming fronts had virtually no moisture to work with to produce rain showers," Scheeringa said.
He said that system has broken down at times recently, increasing dew points and humidity.
"Cold fronts from our north and west are reaching Indiana more often and can use this atmospheric moisture to trigger rainfall that is gradually increasing in amounts and area coverage," Scheeringa said.
Still, the U.S. Drought Monitor update on Thursday (July 19) painted a worsening picture of drought conditions in Indiana in the past week. Three areas of extreme drought - the second-highest level of dryness - in last week's drought map now are joined in one large area that stretches from the southwest to the northeast corners, encompassing 54 percent of the state.
The remainder of the counties are in other levels of drought. Parts of Vanderburgh and Posey counties in the Evansville area along the Ohio River remained in exceptional drought, the highest level of dryness.
Indiana is 7.56 inches below normal precipitation so far for the year. The state typically gets 22.8 inches July 19.
More information about the drought is available on the Purdue Extension drought website at http://www.purdue.edu/drought