Drought conditions continued to worsen in parts of the Corn Belt in the last week, but improved slightly in others - a pattern likely to continue.
By Jennifer Stewart, Purdue University
A return to more normal, widespread rainfall in the region of Indiana generally northeast of a Gary to Richmond line that continues into Ohio contributed to slight improvements in areas of both states. But the same storm systems consistently missed west-central Indiana, which is now the area showing the greatest drought declines.
"The big story here is that significant precipitation has consistently missed west-central Indiana over and over again," said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist for the Indiana State Climate Office, based at Purdue. "This is the area of the state that is worsening the fastest."
In the Thursday (Aug. 2) Drought Monitor update, the U.S. Department of Agriculture again extended a swath of exceptional drought - the most intense drought rating available - further into west-central Indiana.
Severe drought conditions on the western edge of Ohio extended further to the east, but areas along the southern and eastern borders were upgraded from moderate drought to abnormally dry.
A long-lived ridge of high pressure has caused storm systems to enter Indiana and travel in a circular pattern that begins in the northwest corner of the state, and then moves southeast to the eastern border with Ohio before exiting to the southeast.
"This northeastern portion of Indiana is very slowly improving because of a return to more frequent rainfall," Scheeringa said.
The normal July rainfall total for both Indiana and Ohio is 1 inch per week.
Scheeringa said normal rainfall amounts likely would continue for parts of both states in the coming week, but storm systems still might miss Indiana's driest areas. Both states are expected to remain hot. He said precipitation the following week would slow once again.
"For the next week to 10 days we should see normal rainfall - just enough to keep our drought conditions steady - except in west-central Indiana," Scheeringa said. "But, after that, our chances of rain do not look as good.
"So there's some good news in the short term, but then it's back to status quo."