State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says the overall figures give only a partial picture of the weather situation in the just completed month of July. The overall numbers do show a drop in normal rainfall and an increase in heat.
He says statewide we had the 41st driest July and 38th warmest July in 145 years of records. Temperatures were about one-and-half degrees warmer than normal. Hillaker says the statewide rain average gives a little bit of the picture of the situation too.
He says 2.89 inches was the statewide average — or a little more than an inch and a half below the normal average of 4.5 inches of rain for July.
Hillaker says that statewide total doesn’t seem to indicate the drought situation we are in now, but he says the average is thrown off by the abundance of rain in northeast Iowa. He says Guttenberg on the eastern border is a good example as the city had a July record of 13.88 inches of rain.
“Some pretty amazing rains — Guttenburg had two different events that were roughly in the five to six inch category apiece. So, easy to set records when you get two of those sorts of events in the same month,” according to Hillaker. But if you went west there were many areas that would have loved to have portions of either of those big rain events.
“Roughly I-80 southward as far west as Creston, as far east as Fairfield — those areas had less than an inch of rain during the month. And much of the same areas were quite dry in June, kind of worsening drought conditions in those areas of the state,” Hillaker says. Not only was there a lack of rain, but we also saw triple-digit temperatures.
“Up to 101 degrees at Ottumwa on the 20th of the month and then the next day 101 in Des Moines, “Hillaker says. “Actually the highest temperatures in the state going back to September of 2013 was the last time that we had temperatures higher than 101.” Hillaker says the humidity during that stretch made it worse with heat indices well above 100. The climatologist says the statewide averages for temperature and rainfall had been running pretty close to normal this year until we hit June and things dried out.
“Some parts of the state like Ottumwa, the last time they had a June-July combination with less rain than this year — you had to go way back to 1911, over 100 years ago — to find a drier June-July combination than 2017,” Hillaker explains.
He says June, July and August are usually the months were we get more rain, so there’s still some hope August could turn around the dry spell the state is in.