Less than an inch-and-a-half of rain: August was dry, dry, dry

News-DemocratSeptember 6, 2013 

Last month was one of the driest Augusts on record in Illinois.

The statewide average precipitation for August was 1.38 inches, according to State Climatologist Jim Angel, Illinois State Water Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois. It was the third driest August on record and 2.22 inches below the 1981-2010 average.

Locally, according to the National Weather Service, the metro-east had 1.19 inches of rain in August.

"Up a little bit to the north in Central Illinois they're experiencing moderate drought conditions," Angel said. "The Belleville area hasn't reached that point yet. But it's getting close."

Angel said the forecast for the next two weeks calls for a continuation of unusually hot and dry conditions, bad news for are farmers.

"The big problem is that things were so wet in the planting season that farmers didn't get their corn and soybeans in until late," Angel said. "So those crops are a little more vulnerable than they should be at this point of the year. They should be about wrapped up. But in many cases they're not, and now they're suffering from the lack of water."

The driest August in Illinois came in 1952 when only 1.12 inches of rain fell. Even during the severe drought of 2012, precipitation for the month was 3.64 inches, which was 0.04 inches above average.

The only areas in the state with significant precipitation this August were far Southern Illinois and a portion of northeastern Illinois. Elsewhere, precipitation amounts were far below average. A few areas in the western part of the state received less than 0.1 inches.

On June 6, the Mississippi River reached its sixth-highest level ever in St. Louis at 40.52 feet. Three months later, the level is at zero. At minus 7, the channel becomes impassible because the water is too shallow.

"It's boom or bust, that's the dynamic of the river," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mike Petersen said. "Although there is truly no 'usual' for the river, this is the time of year that it typically starts to drop. It's low. But we're a lot better off than we were at this time last year."

The drought of 2012 left Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard leaders scrambling to keep the river open to barge traffic. Emergency measures had to be put into effect including dredging near Thebes that lowered the river's rock bottom there by two feet.

"We're a lot better off for the future because of that," Petersen said. "We moved 1,000 cubic yards of rock and were able to keep the river open despite it reaching one of its lowest levels in history."

The statewide average temperature for August was 73.1 degrees, which is .4 degrees below average. August was noteworthy for being much below average for the first half of the month and much above average for the latter half, effectively canceling each other out by the end of the month.

The statewide average precipitation for the summer, which includes June, July, and August, was 9.93 inches, 1.92 inches below average. While June was above average at 5.41 inches of rain, both July with 3.14 inches and August with 1.38 inches were below average. It was an improvement over last summer, when the average precipitation for the summer was 6.92 inches, 4.93 inches below the 1981-2010 average.

The statewide average temperature for this summer was 72.5 degrees, 1.1 degrees below the 1981-2010 average. June, July, and August were all below average but July had the coolest departure of 2.4 degrees below average.

The statewide average precipitation for 2013 so far was 33.48 inches, which was 6.0 inches above the 1981-2010 average. This was far higher than last year, when the statewide precipitation was only 17.79 inches through the end of August.

The statewide average temperature for 2013 so far was 46.3 degrees, which was 1.2 degrees below the 1981-2010 average. This was far cooler than last year, when the statewide temperature was 52.7 degrees, 5.2 degrees above average.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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