In a remarkable turnaround from recent years, southern Wisconsin is creeping toward drought conditions while northern parts of the state are receiving plentiful rain.
"We started the growing season with drought sneaking into the northwestern half of the state, and now it is the southeastern half that is dry," said Bill Bland, University of Wisconsin-Extension agricultural climatologist.
At the start of June Wisconsin was nearly on-track for a normal precipitation year statewide, but June has changed all that.
"The southern tier of counties is presently short of rainfall by at least two inches,” said Bland, “a serious deficit coming on the heels of the exceptionally early start to the growing season.”
According to Bland, southern Wisconsin is on track for a new record of least amount of rainfall in June, with only 0.31 inches being recorded in Madison at the Dane County Regional Airport.
He noted that the previous record low rainfall in June was in 1973 with 0.81 inches recorded. July and August of that year received only 63 percent of normal rainfall.
July typically brings four inches of rain, but crops and landscapes in full swing need every drop of this to meet their water needs. Seasonal outlooks issued June 21 by the National Weather Service suggest that a warmer-than-average summer is likely, because of low soil moisture over so much of the central U.S. However, these forecasters left the chances of precipitation at just the usual roll of the dice.
"It is never possible to pinpoint just when a long dry spell becomes a damaging drought, but southern Wisconsin will be in the grips of one without at least a couple of inches of rainfall by mid-July," said Bland.