State: Drought lingers despite extra precipitation in January

By: - February 7, 2021 11:00 am

Climate experts predict Iowa’s drought will continue through the crop season. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

A slightly wetter than usual January did little to ease drought in the western half of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported.

The state saw an extra 0.35 inches of precipitation in January, but also averaged 4 degrees warmer than usual. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported  a small area of northwest Iowa was in extreme drought as of early this week. Basically the northwestern half of the state is either dry or in some level of drought. January usually is Iowa’s driest month of the year.

“Under the snow, the shallow soils are dry enough that there is the potential for drought issues later this spring,” the state’s drought-watchers reported this week.

“Despite the abundance of snow in January, there is concern over dry soils in western parts of the state,” Tim Hall, DNR’s coordinator of hydrology resources, said in a statement. “A dry spring could be problematic for parts of the state.”

Temperatures in January averaged 23.6 degrees, 4.2 degrees above normal. Northwestern Iowa was 7 degrees warmer than normal, on average. 

Most rivers are running normally, but the Des Moines River system is running lower than normal, the state reported. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported 52% of Iowa is in some form of drought or abnormally dry conditions, the same as last week but significantly below the 64% of three months ago. Nearly 620,000 Iowans live in areas now in drought.

State and federal officials plan an online public meeting from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 4 to discuss the issues.

More than half of Iowa is in drought. (Image courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor)

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.