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Drought conditions continue during record streak

  • 12/21/2023 2:10:00 PM
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DES MOINES - The current drought is the longest in Iowa since the 1950s, with abnormally dry and drought conditions extending into the 188th week in a row, according to the latest data available. 

Following the 16th driest November on record, precipitation for December is currently about 60 percent of average, which is normally 1.37 inches. Portions of southeast Iowa recorded above normal rainfall for the month, leaving most of the state with below average precipitation.

Depending on potential rainfall during the coming weekend, December could finish with average levels This would help stabilize, but not improve, drought conditions. 

“At this point, any moisture we get in the state will be helpful,” says Tim Hall, the Hydrology Resources Coordinator for the Iowa DNR. “With conditions as dry as they are coming out of 2023 there is a real concern for hydrologic conditions moving into 2024. Low stream flows and dry soil conditions could lead to water supply challenges in the coming year.”

However, the dry winter months will make drought recovery challenging. January is normally the driest month of the year in the state, with an average of less than one inch of moisture.

“Strong El Niño conditions are projected to persist through winter,” said Iowa State Climatologist, Dr. Justin Glisan. “In an El Niño winter, precipitation can be highly variable. Warmer than normal temperatures could result in more rain than snow during the winter months.” 

The Iowa Drought Team, made up of staff from the Departments of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Natural Resources will continue to meet over the winter months to prepare for potential continuation and worsening of drought conditions. The next Water Summary Update, which will include a review of the 2023 conditions, will be published in January.