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Drought continues, 2013 outlook bleak

According to the weekly Drought Monitor report released late last week, more than 62% of the continental United States is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought; that compares with just over 29% at this time last year. The National Weather Service expects the drought to persist in most of the dry regions west of the Mississippi River over the next three months, with exceptions in patches of California, Montana and Wyoming,

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist David Miskus says precipitation will have to be far above normal levels to put a dent in regions that have been rain starved since the spring.

That mirrors the perspective of State Climatologist for Iowa Harry Hillaker, whose analysis of soil profiles across the state necessitate nothing short of a miracle in some areas to reach field capacity around 10 to 12 inches.

Northeast Iowa near Clayton, Allamakee and Winneshiek counties has roughly 8 inches of moisture in the soil. Not much, but better than the situation in northwest Iowa, where soil moisture is a mere 2-3 inches.

The only precipitation falling for the next few months is snow, which is inherently dry; Hillaker points to the 10-to-1 (or 13-to-1, according to him) snow-to-rain rule. Exceptionally dry midwinter snowfall can see that ratio grow to 25-to-1.

But historically speaking, Hillaker says 2013 looks bleak.