Summer may be as parched as spring
CHAMPAIGN — Hard to believe, but normally June is one of the wetter months of the year.
Not the case with 2012 so far.
In fact, the area has received about half of the normal rainfall for the month, and the outlook for the next two weeks is not looking good.
Welcome to summer, which is looking a lot like this year's spring.
"It was warm and dry all spring, and the summer is looking like the same story," said Jim Angel, Illinois state climatologist.
Over at Kickapoo Landing, a canoeing and tubing outfitter based in Kickapoo State Park in Oakwood, canoeists are being shuttled to the deeper Salt Fork instead of the Middle Fork River, where trips are usually taken. Visitors who want to go tubing can still float down the Middle Fork, but there may be a few spots where they have to get up and walk due to low water levels, said Todd Alcorn, general manager of the business.
"We are very affected by (the drought). We have to double-shuttle people now" to two different rivers instead of one, the Middle Fork. "Usually we do not have to do that until August. We've been doing it since May," he said.
"We need a lot of rain to make a difference," Alcorn added.
Most of central and southern Illinois have had below-normal to much-below-normal stream flow for this year, according to the Illinois State Water Survey.
The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor classified some parts of central Illinois as in a moderate drought and some in a severe drought. Far southern Illinois is experiencing what's called an extreme drought.
For the first 20 days of June, rainfall in the Champaign-Urbana area totaled 2.21 inches as of Thursday.
Crops are starting to show signs of stress. Dry, hot weather can aggravate any other existing problems that the crops might be facing, said Dennis Bowman, UI Extension educator.
"Typically we have good soil moisture going into the growing season, and the June, July and August rains hold you (through the season)," Angel said.
But if you start the growing season with soil that's short on moisture, growers really depend on those summer rains to help the crop along.
Corn planted earlier in the spring soon will begin the critical pollination stage. Corn roots do not like to grow in dry soil conditions, and some plants sent into the University of Illinois Plant Clinic are showing signs of nutrient deficiency, Bowman said. Fields need adequate soil moisture to diffuse the nutrients throughout the soil and to the roots, he said.
As for the soybeans, the primary pest that causes headaches during dry weather is the spider mite.
"They will come out and steal moisture from the plant and rip away at the skin on the underneath side of soybean leaves. That causes the plants to lose moisture and plants burn up from the damage," Bowman said.
Although some portions of East Central Illinois received rain on Thursday, it was a scant amount. The last significant rains in the area were on June 12 and 17, when some areas in Champaign-Urbana received up to about half to three-quarters of an inch of rain.
"We're living hand-to-mouth on the rainfall," Angel said.
The forecast from the National Weather Service is not very optimistic on the rain front over the next two weeks.
In the five-day forecast, one-tenth to one-half of an inch of rain may fall in some parts of the state, but "we're not in line for any big rain event," Angel said.
Looking ahead another 10 and 14 days, there's an increased chance of below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures, he said.
"The warm dry weather continues. That's the story of the spring and the summer," Angel said.