Climate predictors now say drought might expand in Iowa

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jun 03, 2023

Drought conditions expanded in Iowa last week and might encompass the entire state by month’s end, according to a new report by the federal Climate Prediction Center.

That is a change in expectations from its report two weeks ago, when drought was predicted to recede in much of the state in the coming months.

The adjustment was made to reflect a recently released outlook for June, the Center noted, that shows drought conditions persisting and expanding across the state.

There is a strong possibility that an El Niño climate pattern — when the Pacific Ocean is warmer than usual near the Earth’s equator — will develop in the next two months and persist into winter. The state climatologist has said that might induce wetter conditions in Iowa with the possibility to eliminate the drought by year’s end.

However, the timing of that weather pattern shift remains unclear.

A new report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought and dryness expanded significantly in the state last week. A state weather report noted there was almost no rain over that period.

About 93% of the state is abnormally dry or worse, the Drought Monitor said Thursday. More than a third of Iowa is in some degree of drought, and the worst remains in far western Iowa.

That information was valid as of Tuesday and doesn’t take into account the heavy rainfall over wide areas that has happened since. Some parts of the state have had more than an inch of rain in the past two days, according to the National Weather Service.

The recent dryness is the worst its been in three months. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report early this week noted that only half of the state’s topsoil had adequate or surplus moisture for growing crops.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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