CHAMPAIGN -- Warmer and drier soils may be causing Illinois farmers to worry about a drought.
Jennie Atkins is the manager of the Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring program at the Illinois State Water Survey. According to her, the soil temperature at 4 inches below bare soil increased by 17 degrees during the first three week of May, reaching a state-average of 69 on May 21. The temperatures are 2 degrees above the average for 2022, and 2 degrees above the historical average.
The daily highs ranged from the 70s to the low 80s, while the lows fell between the 50s and the 60s.
The average soil moisture in May was 0.28 water fractions by volume (wfv). The moisture levels in the state decreased due to the drier conditions of the past week.
She said that the average moisture at 4 inches dropped 16 percent between May 16 and May 21. The biggest declines were in northern Illinois, where soil moisture levels at the Illinois Climate Network Station in DeKalb County dropped 33 percent in the last week.
There is no impact at soil depths greater than 20 inches.
According to Trent Ford, Illinois State Climatologist at the University of Illinois, Illinois State Water Survey, forecasts for the next seven to ten days indicate very dry weather with temperatures above normal. This will likely worsen the already dry conditions and cause drought conditions to rapidly develop in some areas.
Ford stated that accurate reporting on drought conditions and impacts is critical as the drought progresses to accurately determine which parts of the state have drought and which parts do not.
'Whether you are experiencing a wet or near-normal climate, or if your area has experienced a drought, please report the conditions and any impacts that you may have heard or seen through the National Drought Mitigation Center’s Condition Monitoring Observer Report System or via email to the State Climatologist Office', he stated.
Since mid-April, Illinois has experienced a dry pattern. Since last month, parts of central and western Illinois and the St. Louis Metro East as well as virtually the entire Chicago area received less than half of their normal rainfall.
The Illinois drought usually affects plants and crops as the soil moisture is reduced. However, if it continues to persist, water resources and quality of water can be affected.
NOAA Climate Prediction Center forecasts are pointing toward drier and warmer conditions across the state than usual. A very warm and dry end to May could worsen the already dry conditions, pushing more of the state to drought. This would have potential effects on perennials, vulnerable plants, and young trees.
Ford stated that monitoring drought conditions in Illinois was difficult and time-consuming due to its subtle and varied impacts. Ford said that it's just as important to understand where there is no drought as where there is.
Reporting conditions and impacts in your area of the state can help the process of drought monitoring and impact assessments. Send reports using the Condition Monitoring Observer reporting (CMOR) System of The National Drought Mitigation Center.
You can also send an email to the Illinois State Climatologist Office at __EMAIL__nois.edu.
Please consider reporting the weekly conditions if you see precipitation in the Community Collaborative Network for Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS).
Ford stated that 'every report helps us to understand the drought conditions in order to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed'.
WARM, the Illinois State Water Survey program, collects weather and soil data hourly and every day at 19 stations throughout the state. WARM's website contains daily and monthly summaries.