News release: Measuring the Drought

Tim Baker, MU Extension Professional Field Specialist in Horticulture
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640
660-663-3232, bakert@missouri.edu

Release Date: September 13, 2018
Headline: Measuring the Drought

As a weather observer, I knew that we had been getting some pretty good showers here in Gallatin during August. But at the end of the month, I was surprised that we were actually above normal for the month. That was certainly helping our drought situation, at least here in Daviess County.

If you are interested in seeing my observations for Gallatin, check out the climate page on my web site. There is a link to it on my drought web page (http://extension.missouri.edu/nwhort/drought.aspx).

Some graphical representations of the drought can be found in my water balance charts, on the climate page, under evapotranspiration (ET). The May through August chart shows the dramatic decline over the summer in how much moisture we lost through ET vs. how little rainfall we received. But then it also shows the improvement that started with August.

And on the precipitation page, you can see my measurements here in Gallatin for August… actually 2.60 inches above normal. 

Of course, my observations are only for one point on the map. To gauge the overall extent of the drought, people such as Dr. Pat Guinan, Missouri State Climatologist, will have to look at the big picture, taking into account measurements from all over the state.

While the situation has improved, we still have a way to go, to recover the low lake levels in some city reservoirs, and to improve our soil moisture. To show how short we are, I found some interesting statistics that Dr. Guinan had put together. In his presentation to the Drought Assessment Committee (which I mentioned in an earlier column), Dr. Guinian gave some background on how this drought had developed starting in July, 2017. In the year from July 2017 to the end of July 2018, Gallatin received 25.61 inches of precipitation. The normal amount is 44.09 inches, which means we were 18.48 inches below normal through that time period. Cameron came in at 15.67 inches short, and St. Joseph was 17.62 inches below normal.

The August rains did improve the situation. The Drought Monitor of September 4 has removed all D4 drought in Missouri except for a small area around Kansas City. Most of Daviess, DeKalb, and parts of a few other counties remained in D3 drought.

When the remnants of Hurricane Gordon were first forecasted to come to Missouri, it looked like the center of low pressure would track up to Kansas City and then curve to the northeast, right through Daviess and Caldwell Counties.  That isn’t what happened, needless to say. In fact, most of the rainfall we got that week occurred before Gordon was even close to Missouri.  So I doubt that much of what we did get can be attributed to Gordon.

So is the drought over?  For much of our region, it isn’t. D3 drought maintains its grip on parts of several counties, including Daviess. And as I write this column on the morning of September 13th, there isn’t a drop of rain in the forecast for Gallatin over the next seven days.