LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Since July 16th La Crosse has recorded just over an inch and a half of rain. This did improve the drought conditions, but it was nowhere near enough to overcome the deficit of rain being seen across the region.
Right now, the La Crosse area would need 6-7 inches of rain to alleviate the drought. And with worse drought to the south, areas in south-west Wisconsin would need around 9 inches to bring conditions back to normal.
Dan Baumgardt, Science and Operations Officer at the National Weather Service in La Crosse, said the current drought can be attributed to not only lack of rainfall, but also above average temperatures.
"We normally see about 3 or 4 inches of rain every summer month," Baumgardt said. "And this year it's been unusually warm, about 4-5 degrees above normal. So far, it's the hottest summer on record. And what that does is actually take the moisture out of the soil. So we have dry soil because we're not getting precipitation and then we start to pull the moisture even harder out of the soil because it's been so warm."
Typically, June and July are big precipitation months for the year. Lack of rainfall during this time can cause rain deficits to develop rapidly.
"We did have a mild winter," Baumgardt said. "Not a lot of snowfall. So we were heading into the spring with a slight deficit. But things were okay through about May. And then we really saw a dry pattern setting up. So that's really what the heart of this drought is all about. It's kind of a flash drought. It happened very rapidly in May, June, July."
Currently, mid-range forecast models show more rain in the coming months. But with the exceptionally dry conditions, we will need substantially above average rainfall to end the drought.
"It would be hard to do the same thing we've done over the last couple of months and be this dry," Baumgardt said. "So the probabilities are we're going to be having more rainfall in the coming months and start to alleviate the drought. But we need an exceptional amount over the next few months to really catch up."
We generally see more accumulation in the summer than any other month. Baumgardt said if the drought persists into the fall, it will be harder to chip away at the precipitation deficit during the winter and major rain deficits could continue into next summer.
Additional information about the current drought can be found on the La Crosse National Weather Service drought page at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/arx/?n=drought, the Climate Prediction Center at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/ and the US Drought Monitor at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ .
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