Start of fall is end of heat, not drought
Post by Christie Taylor on 9/17/2012 12:00pm
It turns out that not only was Wisconsin unusually hot and dry this summer, but it was also the most unusually hot state in the nation this summer.
Climate Central’s assessment of national high- and low-temperature records for 2012 named the Badger state the overall winner for record-breaking heat, with a total of 1,345 new high temperature records (an average of 4.4 degrees warmer than previous records), and 41 times more record highs than record lows.
Wisconsin didn’t actually have the most new high temperature records: that honor goes to Texas, while Wisconsin came in fourth. But in measuring the extremeness of the heat, the ratio between high and low matters, too, and there Wisconsin easily beat even Iowa, which had more than 1,400 new records--but, with a high/low ratio of only 11, ranked only second in overall extremeness.
The state with the biggest high/low ratio, by the way, was Ohio, at 49 times more record high temps than record lows, with Maryland and Wisconsin tied for second.
As the weather turns cool and drizzly days become more frequent, the drought itself isn’t actually over yet. As of Thursday morning, the U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks dry conditions across the nation, still named about 5 percent of the southwestern part of Wisconsin in extreme drought, the second-worst category it classifies conditions under, and another 22 percent is considered in severe drought. The entire rest of the state is either in moderate drought (19 percent) or abnormally dry.
It’s been a steady improvement for the southern part of the state since late July, when the largest area of the state--a full 19.69 percent--was in an extreme drought, and another 15 percent was severe. But the northern counties have dried out since August and, meanwhile, the early drought in the south, compounded by low snowfall over last winter, continues to have repercussions.
The damage was already done to the corn crop in late June and early July, when heat and lack of moisture hindered the pollination that’s necessary to put kernels on ears. And heat-loving pests went for the soybeans.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s September yield forecast is projecting that both crops will be down significantly from last year, with soybeans at 60.5 million bushels, or down 18 percent, while corn is projected to be at 10.7 billion bushels, down 13 percent.
Christie Taylor (@ctaylsaurus) covers science, environment, and, depending on the season, state politics for dane101. She verbs a lot of nouns, including rollerskates, radio, and Kurt Vonnegut. A Madison native, she's not sure she'll ever quite manage to leave Wisconsin, and that's just fine by her. Contact her at email@example.com.