Southern Illinois flips from drought to excess moisture

The southern third of Illinois has seen a dramatic shift in moisture from fall to spring.

State climatologist Trent Ford tells Brownfield according to the US Drought Monitor the “south seven” counties (Union, Johnson, Pope, Hardin, Alexander, Pulaski and Massac) were in extreme drought last November.  

“Especially since the beginning of the year the switch has flipped there and areas that saw a top 10 driest fall on record are experiencing what will likely be a top 10 wettest winter, if not top 5.”

He says that area has been 4 to 6 inches wetter than normal since the beginning of the year, which is significant considering that January and February are usually the driest months of the year. “And that area saw anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of rain yesterday and is likely getting another 2 to 3 inches today.”

He says the soil moisture picture for southern Illinois fields has quickly changed.

“It has been a quick transition from ‘Hey we need to think about drought in this area it is pretty bad’ to definitely no drought, we have recovered fully and now we are on the cusp of maybe seeing some flooding issues.”

Ford says this area has the most potential for challenges heading into spring planting, especially since their growing season begins sooner than the rest of the state.

He says central and northern Illinois are in a sweet spot, having stayed out of drought without too much moisture.

The latest drought monitor shows zero drought concern in Illinois for the first time since June 2020.

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