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Drought expands in Wisconsin; entire state abnormally dry

Over 90% of Wisconsin is now considered to be in drought.

Drought expands in Wisconsin; entire state abnormally dry

Source: Canva

June 22, 2023 9:23 AM CDT
By: Jimmie Kaska

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LINCOLN, Neb. (WMDX) – The quickly-onsetting drought conditions in Wisconsin now affect the entire state, according to the latest U.S. National Drought Monitor.

100% of the state is now considered abnormally dry, with at least moderate drought conditions in over three-quarters of Wisconsin.

One month ago, less than a fraction of a percent of Wisconsin was experiencing drought. Thursday’s drought monitor also showed severe drought returning to Wisconsin, with nearly 8% of the state in that category.

Severe drought, which is in the Lower Wisconsin River Valley as well as the area around Superior in Douglas County, has historical impacts such as lower crop yields, much higher use of groundwater for irrigation, and slower pasture growth.

Just two weeks ago, drought conditions were present in about a quarter of Wisconsin, quickly expanding to just under half of the state last week. The area of moderate drought in Wisconsin has roughly tripled in just two weeks, according to the Drought Monitor.

A few parts of Wisconsin not yet experiencing drought includes a belt across the state from roughly west-central Wisconsin north of La Crosse, across the central part of the state, including Stevens Point, to northeastern Wisconsin north of Green Bay. The area around Lake Winnebago, Door County, and far north-central Wisconsin are other areas spared from drought conditions, although all of these areas combined represent only about 9% of the state not currently experiencing drought.

Conditions aren’t any better across the Midwest: In the nine states that are considered the Midwest by the Drought Monitor, 92% of it is abnormally dry and 58% of it is in drought, with 15% in severe drought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that a lack of rain did nothing to slow the widespread drought conditions worsening. Stream flows in the Upper Midwest have fallen to below the 10th percentile historically, as soil moisture evaporation has accelerated due to dry conditions over the past two months. Because of those conditions, the Drought Monitor greatly expanded drought and dry conditions to its report this week. Most of the Midwest is experiencing the same issue during a crucial part of the crop-growing season. Only areas seeing seven-day rainfalls over two inches saw conditions halt or improve.

The USDA said that historically, abnormally dry conditions lead to lower water levels, burn bans, yellow or brown lawns, an increase in irrigation, outdoor water bans in some municipalities, and crops that are stressed, especially during growing season. Moderate drought impacts typically include higher hay prices and increased sales of livestock. Crop yields are lower and groundwater usage due to irrigation is much higher during severe drought.

In addition to the impacts historically due to drought, the USDA said that currently, 64% of the nation’s corn-growing area is in drought, including most of Wisconsin’s major crop area.

Short-term impacts to agriculture and grasslands are expected for the entire state. These impacts typically last fewer than six months, according to the USDA. In its summary, the drought monitor noted that in the driest areas, crop producers are already using supplemental feeding for livestock and that the loss of crop yield is becoming a concern. A small part of western Grant County in southwestern Wisconsin is in the long-term impact range, which affects hydrology and ecology.

The National Weather Service shows below-average temperatures and near-normal precipitation is expected for Wisconsin over the next six to 10 days, offering perhaps slight relief for drought-affected areas. The Climate Prediction Center at the NWS shows soil moisture below normal in all of Wisconsin, with seasonal levels far below normal in the southern two-thirds of the state and historic rain levels in the 10th percentile in far southwestern Wisconsin.

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