News release: Drought Relief

Tim Baker, MU Extension Professional Field Specialist in Horticulture
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: November 8, 2018
Headline: Drought Relief

As most weather-watchers in Missouri know, we are now officially out of drought, for the most part. As of the November 6 Drought Monitor, only a tiny spot of D1 drought remains in the southern parts of Clay and Platte Counties. There are, however, several areas of our state still considered abnormally dry, including parts of north Missouri.

In my last column on the drought, I had mentioned that August had above normal precipitation in Gallatin. September returned to below normal readings, but some unexpected rains in October resulted in Gallatin receiving 6.42 inches above normal. Our total in Gallatin for October was an amazing 9.56 inches. I have heard reports of even higher amounts for other locations in Daviess County.

As I finished out my precipitation and evapotranspiration records for the month, the thing that amazed me was that our water balance actually ended up on the surplus side of the chart for the period May through October. You can see the graph on my web site:

The problem is, of course, that much of that October precipitation ran off. While I know this helped recharge our soil moisture to some degree, the deeper subsurface soil could still be somewhat dry in areas where the drought was greatest.

The runoff, however, was of great benefit to our ponds, lakes and reservoirs. The city reservoirs for both Cameron and Hamilton are back to full capacity. Hamilton reports that when it started raining again in October, within 5 days the water was topping the spillway.  That’s great news.

In an earlier column, I showed some comparisons between this year’s drought and the 2012 drought. Another surprise came when we finished the water year at the end of September. The climatological water year measures the precipitation that falls from October 1st to September 30th. The water year for 2017-2018 was 15.25 inches below normal in Gallatin, certainly not a surprise when you are in a drought.  What is fascinating is that this is much worse than 2011-2012, which was 11.47 inches short.

This happened because this year’s drought really started in 2017, while the 2012 drought didn’t really get going until June of that year.  I also looked at the water years from 2010-2013. Gallatin was 15.77 inches short during those three water years. As noted above, we were 15.25 inches below normal just in the recently completed water year.

So what does the future hold? Looking at the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, the month of November calls for 50-60% chances of above normal precipitation. However, for the rest of the year and coming winter, they are calling for equal chances of above normal, normal, and below normal precipitation. Hopefully, we’ll start receiving precipitation again on a regular basis.