Monday, September 3, 2018

Too Little Too Late

This year was another drought year, our third in a row though not nearly as bad as last year. Last year was so dry that I could drop a yardstick halfway (i.e. 18 inches) into the ground at just about every crack. Pretty much the top soil was completely dried out and the only thing preventing the yardstick from falling completely in was our layer of clay that is tens of feet thick. In the fall of last year, we got a rain reported to be about five inches or so but my rain gauge is only three inches so I couldn't personally verify that. The rain closed up all the cracks going into this year but it was still really dry down in the subsoil layers.

We got a few rains in the spring to get the crops sprouted and started growing. We went through a hot dry period through most of June that put the hurt on the crops but got a timely small rain during pollination time which is perhaps the most critical time needing rain. Then the spigots that were only at a trickle to begin with turned off. The corn has since died and the ears are dropping, i.e. pointing down instead of their normal skywards, which indicates that harvest is not too far off. Last night we got a nearly three inch rain but it was too little too late.

Most of Iowa has got plenty of moisture and in some places flooding has been an issue all year round. However there are a handful of counties in the far SE corner of the state where all those rains have consistently gone around. A study of the drought shows that we've been in extreme drought pretty much continuously since the beginning of 2017. In fact, since 2016, we are now 25+ inches below normal for rainfall. Over two feet!

I grew up on a farm and am not a stranger to drought. But I can't remember a time when we've been this dry for this long. The culprit is global warming which is causing the jet stream to sort of flatline as it crosses the midwest. In a normal year is is constantly moving up and down from central Canada all the way to the gulf coast and every time it passes over us, there is a chance for rain events as warm moist gulf air collides with the cool dry artic air. When it flatlines to the north of us, the north of us is where the rain falls.

I'm glad we got this rain even if it was too late yet again. It did close up the cracks in my lawn overnight though they weren't nearly as deep as last year. The grass which long ago died back in June might perk up for a fall revival, or at least the weeds in the lawn will. Either way, I'll probably have to mow again, something that hasn't been done in nearly 7 or 8 weeks. It was also nice to breath in the moist air during my morning walk.


Kelly said...

What we've noticed this year, that we don't remember from the past, is how windy it's been. I've jokingly called it our "sirocco". It's been fairly steady all summer and quickly erases all evidence of what few drops of rain we get. Between that and the heat, we've not fished a time since spring.

And isn't it funny how it can pour just a quarter of a mile away (or less!), yet not a drop at your own place.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I hear ya on the drought We've been in one since 2011, with a tad of relief the winter before last. Of course, personally I don't have anything beyond a small yard growing, but it is scary. And the longer they go, the more worrisome they become. We have a similar pattern happening. Our storms come from the Pacific, but there's been a constant high pressure system that deflects storms from coming on shore. "They" have tried shooting stuff into the clouds to make rain, but that hasn't been terribly successful. It's just made things humid. They're predicting more rain for us this winter, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ed said...

Kelly - It is extremely disheartening.

Pumpkin Delight - So is it officially a drought or just a return to "normal" after a couple decades of above normal precipitation? The latter is generally what is perceived here in the Midwest, right or wrong.

Leigh said...

Drought is always a very difficult thing. And worrisome. I feel fortunate that we've been out of official drought status for awhile now, but we still get hot dry spells that are rough on growing things. Hopefully things will be changing for you all soon.

Ed said...

Leigh - Having lived through many droughts, I can say I prefer a drought to a wet year. At least when it is dry, work outside can continue on and we can always add water to at least our gardens. I've spent many a wet year sitting on a bucket in the shop just watching it rain or slogging around in mud and clay.