Month of above-average moisture needed to break drought

TIM LANDIS
Rain pelts the Galva downtown in this July 2010 file photo. Area residents are hoping for extended periods of rain to break the current drought

A drought that now covers the entire state had its beginnings in an unusually dry, warm winter, an Illinois climatologist said Thursday.

"While it seems like the drought developed quickly, we have been heading toward this since January," said Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey.

The U.S. Drought Monitor this week added a small section of north-central Illinois to its drought area, completing the drought designation for the entire state. More than two dozen counties in southern Illinois have been hardest hit.

"Every month this year was warmer and drier than normal," said Angel. "However, the heat and lack of rainfall intensified in June and early July. "

Angel said droughts typically linger through summer because of the warm temperatures. But even with cooler temperatures in the fall, Angel said it would take a month of above-average precipitation to end the drought.

"In other words, just getting normal rainfall at this point just keeps it from getting worse," said Angel.

According to the Drought Monitor update, 30 percent of the corn crop in the 18 primary corn-growing states is in poor or very poor condition.

"In the hottest areas last week, which were generally dry, crop conditions deteriorated quickly," the report said.