Little cause for alarm in precipitation since 2012
CHAMPAIGN — You'd never know it but local precipitation since Jan. 1, 2012, is still running well below normal.
Even after the 1.8 inches of rain officially recorded by the Illinois State Water Survey between 8 a.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Friday, precipitation over the last 15 1/2 months is more than 6 inches below normal.
In only five of the last 15 months has rainfall exceeded the monthly average. So far in April, however, 1.94 inches of rain has fallen in Champaign-Urbana; the normal April total is 3.68 inches.
But state climatologist Jim Angel said he isn't too worried.
"In general, in Illinois we get a fresh start every spring thanks to normally generous rain/snow in the fall, winter, and early spring," Angel said in an email. "It's more than enough to recharge the soil moisture, stream flows and lake levels. As a result, I am not too worried about the carryover of precipitation deficits from last year."
He said he normally looks at weekly USDA topsoil and subsoil moisture reports. In some parts of eastern and central Illinois, there's a surplus of soil moisture rather than a shortage.
The April 8 USDA report — before Wednesday's deluge — said that in the East Central Illinois area subsoil moisture was 6 percent very short, 9 percent short and 85 percent adequate. In central Illinois it was 4 percent short, 83 percent adequate and 13 percent surplus.
"The only thing lagging behind in the recovery from the 2012 drought are the shallow groundwater levels," Angel said. "That is typical of past droughts. I think in the 1988 drought it wasn't until the fall or winter of 1989 before some wells had fully recovered."
The recent U.S. drought monitor, compiled by the USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that no part of Illinois is experiencing drought. Last July and August, however, East Central Illinois was declared in "extreme drought."
The National Weather Service at Lincoln reported that unofficially some of the highest rainfall totals from the midweek storm were recorded in Champaign County. A weather spotter 5 miles east of Thomasboro reported 3.5 inches of rain and a spotter 3 miles west of Champaign reported 2.46 inches.