CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – The latest Drought Monitor update came out Thursday Morning and it has Illinois seeing the worst drought conditions in a decade.
Severe drought has been introduced to areas north of I-74 in Central Illinois, with other areas into Northwest Illinois and into Western Illinois also now seeing severe drought conditions in place.
Severe drought is not all that unusual. Just last summer, a small section of severe drought was introduced in East Central Illinois, centered around southern Champaign, Piatt and Douglas counties.
But the amount of the State of Illinois under severe drought is something that’s not been seen in a decade.
That’s something that Illinois State Climatologist Dr. Trent Ford attributes to the sudden flash-drought conditions.
“This year’s drought has mostly come from very to extremely dry conditions since mid-April, which have been the worst in the Chicagoland area, central/east central Illinois, and parts of western Illinois,” said Dr. Ford.
The time period between April 1st and June 10th, has been the 2nd driest similar time period on record, only wetter than 1988, according to data released from the Illinois State Water Survey.
“Over that time, Champaign has had 4.52” total, which is the 7th lowest on record, the lowest since 1988, and more than 2″ less than we got over that same period in 2012. And conditions have been even drier farther north, in parts of Iroquois and Ford Counties,” said Dr. Ford.
As a result of the dry weather, the impacts are growing worse, and the affects of it are starting to be felt across the state.
The latest drought monitor has over 14% of the state under severe drought conditions, the most since Fall of 2013, when nearly 16% of the state experienced such.
“Impacts have been moderate so far,” said Dr. Ford. But they are still being noticed.
“Lawns are browning or dormant, trees are showing some stress and beginning to drop leaves in some places, and crops also show stress.”
Still, Dr. Ford says that the agricultural community hasn’t been substantially damaged yet. But that could still come.
“Most experts think yield potential has not yet decreased substantially because of the drought, but another several weeks of dryness would get us there.”
But specialty crop growers are experiencing impacts.
“Some strawberry growers in central Illinois abandoned their crop this year because of poor quality, and many other vegetable and fruit growers are spending a tremendous amount of time and money to irrigate,” said Dr. Ford.
It’s also the most drought conditions measured across the entire state since 2012, when 100% of the state was classified in drought.
The 2012 drought was one the the worst in recent memory, when extreme and exceptional drought categories swallowed much of the state up.
Above: a comparison of drought conditions at different points since 2012.
Also worth mentioning is the impacts to water resources in the state. How quickly this drought has impacted water resources has surprised Dr. Ford.
“Streamflow has plummeted across the region, even in some of our larger rivers like the Kankakee, Sangamon, and Illinois. Because we’re in mid-June and not mid-August, the very low streamflow conditions have not caused too many issues so far,” said Dr. Ford.
But that may change if conditions don’t get better and beneficial rains don’t reach the state soon.
“If we continue the drier conditions through this and next month, we would likely see more stream issues, both water quality and quantity.”
Dr. Ford says that still, there’s hope for us that this doesn’t end up like 2012.
“Overall conditions are concerning but not what I would call critical right now. If we string together a few weeks with near normal rainfall in Central and Northeast Illinois, we may be able to avoid worsening impacts.”
But that has to materialize to stop conditions from worsening.
“Otherwise, if we stay dry and turn hot, we will see impacts multiply,” said Dr. Ford.