Terrys Take: Iowa’s wettest spring ever. Working on the wettest year!

Posted on: 10:11 pm, June 4, 2013, by

Terry Swails Weather Blog

Iowa’s weather has now officially completed a 360 degree turn and gone from dusty to soggy. So soggy, that this spring was just announced as the wettest in state history!

As recently as January, the governor assembled a task force to prepare and deal with drought conditions that were extreme or severe in 58-percent of the state. Fast forward to now and State Climatologist Harry Hillaker has confirmed that May will be the wettest in 141 years of record-keeping with an average of 8.66 inches of rain.

“We’ve also got the wettest spring of record — that would be the months of March, April and May — this year 17.48 inches of precipitation, over two inches above the previous record, which was set in the spring of 1892,” according to Hillaker.

MARCH THROUGH MAY TOTAL PRECIPITATION

MARCH THROUGH MAY TOTAL PRECIPITATION

MARCH THROUGH MAY PRECIPITATION-PERCENT OF NORMAL

MARCH THROUGH MAY PRECIPITATION-PERCENT OF NORMAL

“We’ve also got a record year-to-date total as well — this year up to 19.75 inches — and that is a little more than two inches over the previous January through May record, and that was set in 1973.” Hillaker is on the drought task force and never figure we’d go from talk of water rationing to have communities sandbagging and sump pumps working overtime.

He says it’s much more common to have years following a drought to be on the drier and warmer side. Hillaker says the last time he could find this big a turnaround from hot and dry in Iowa to soaking wet was over 100 years ago.

SPRING TEMPERATURE DEPARTURE 2013

SPRING TEMPERATURE DEPARTURE 2013

“In 1901 we had one of the hottest-driest summers ever, actually one of the driest calendar years ever, and followed the very next year, 1902 was the fourth wettest year on record in Iowa,” Hillaker says.

Is there a chance the wet spring this year could turn into a hot, dry summer?

“Well it could happen. Again if you just play the historical odds it’s not real likely to go back to the other extreme,” Hillaker says, “but there’s been a few cases where that did happen. Most recently in 1983 where we had a cool-wet spring — not as wet as this current one but almost as cool — and it was like someone turned a switch and we went to very hot and dry just very suddenly. And it was very hot and dry for virtually all of July and August.”

MIDWEST DROUGHT AUGUST 7TH, 2012

MIDWEST DROUGHT AUGUST 7TH, 2012

CURRENT MIDWEST DROUGHT CONDITIONS 2012

CURRENT MIDWEST DROUGHT CONDITIONS 2012

The latest state water summary shows over 81-percent of Iowa is drought-free and most of the rest of the state has been upgraded to abnormally dry. Here in the Quad Cites, we’ve had 23″ of rain so far this year compared to 13″ last year and now the drought is nothing more than a bad memory!