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Iowa Drought Concerns High as "Abnormally Dry" Areas Nearly Double

More than a quarter of the state of Iowa is experiencing abnormal dryness, more than double the area earlier this month. (
More than a quarter of the state of Iowa is experiencing abnormal dryness, more than double the area earlier this month. (
June 20, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - At the beginning of June, about 14 percent of the state of Iowa was experiencing abnormal dryness.

The latest findings from the Drought Mitigation Center show that percentage has nearly doubled since then, with the southeast corner of the state being the driest.

Dr. Deborah Bathke, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, says drought conditions haven't been reached yet, but they could be.

"If you think in terms of the National Weather Service, when there's a severe thunderstorm warning or watch, or something like that, the 'abnormally dry' means conditions are there," says Bathke. "We really need to start keeping an eye on things."

The National Drought Mitigation Center says while "abnormal dryness" is the lowest ranking on its drought scale, concerns over a sudden drought also are high.

Bathke points to climate change as a factor, even though it's important to note weather and climate are not the same. She explains climate is long-term, while weather is what happens day to day.

"With climate change, we expect warmer temperatures," says Bathke. "So, even if our rainfall doesn't change, with those higher temperatures we could see more drought, and more of these rapid-onset types of drought, like we're seeing in Iowa this year."

As far as how this will affect crops, Bathke says it's too early to tell. However, she notes the state is just two weeks from one of the more important dates for farmers.

"'Knee-high by the Fourth of July,' exactly. And so, we really have to watch those crop development dates, really see what the precipitation is going to be doing," she says. "Farmers are reporting, at least in some of those dry areas, that they are seeing impacts. They're seeing it affect crop development; they're seeing the soils crack."

She says temperatures at least five degrees above normal are keeping things abnormally dry and precipitation is 10 percent of normal, or less, in the driest parts of the state.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA