An agricultural meteorologist says the intensity of this year’s drought has surpassed the last major drought the Midwest experienced in 1988 and it’s starting to rival far worse droughts dating back to the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.
DTN’s Bryce Anderson says the scope of the last big drought wasn’t as extensive as what the region is seeing now. He says at this time in 1988, the drought was on its way to being broken due to some notable thunderstorms that worked their way across Iowa from west to east.
This summer, with all of those days where highs have been in the upper 90s and low 100s, Anderson says Iowa’s experienced more heat in recent months than in 1988.
He says the extent of the heat waves has been something else, with three or four sustained heat waves that have resulted in pulling crops down into the disaster categories. He says there was some of that in 1988, but not to the level we are seeing right now. Anderson says when looking at the history books, you have to go back a half-century to find a drought that is this extreme.
He says this event is more comparable to 1955, but there are some areas, like central Indiana, where the conditions are more like the 1930s. Anderson says some of the weather numbers are lining up with the dry period of the Dust Bowl. Rainfall in Iowa’s largest city has been very lacking, with numbers from June 1st through this week.
Des Moines has only had 2.45 inches in that time, the sixth-driest period for that stretch ever and the driest since 1933. Another example, since June 1st, Mason City is 4.6 inches behind normal for rainfall, since May 15th it’s 6.1 inches behind normal and since August 1st of last year, the city is 14-and-a-half inches below normal. Anderson says there’s very little rain in the forecast for the next seven days, but temperatures will back down slightly with daytime highs in the upper 80s and lower 90s.
By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City