June 2012 and the first week of July was very dry for southern Wisconsin, with little significant precipitation. Madison received a total of 0.31 inches of precipitation in June, with three separate days receiving 0.09 inches or more (June 11, June 20, June 21). Milwaukee recorded a monthly total of 0.90 inches of precipitation, the bulk of which fell on June 16, 2012 (0.84 inches). Milwaukee was exactly three inches below normal, while Madison was a little more than four inches below normal for June, with a deficit of 4.23 inches.
From a climate standpoint, June 2012 was the driest on record for Madison, and the 6th driest for Milwaukee. The two tables below reflect these rankings in the climate records for Madison and Milwaukee.
Looking back, Milwaukee finished the month of May receiving about one half inch of surplus precipitation. Meanwhile, Madison finished the month of May with a precipitation deficit of about four tenths of an inch (0.36").
The figure on the left below illustrates the lack of precipitation that has fallen across south central and southeast Wisconsin in the last 60 days as of 7 am July 10 . Many areas east of Madison have received less than two inches of rain during this time period. The figure on the right illustrates the percent of normal precipitation for the last 60 days. Nearly all of southern Wisconsin has received less than 50% of the normal amount of precipitation and portions east of Madison has received less than 25% of normal. Click on each image for a larger view.
The continued dry conditions through late June and early July has resulted in Moderate Drought Conditions (D1) spreading farther north, across the bottom quarter of the state. Milwaukee and Madison are now considered to be in Moderate Drought Conditions. A moderate drought will result in some damage to crops and pastures. It may result in water shortages, low streams, reservoirs and wells. Voluntary water-use restrictions may be requested. Unfortunately rain is not in the forecast for the second week of July with just warm temperatures and low relative humidity to worsen the drought even more.
The Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions have been expanded northward to include almost all of southern Wisconsin, all the way up to Wisconsin Rapids and just south of Waupaca. Abnormally dry conditions indicate short-term dryness slowing planting and growth of crops or pastures.
See the latest Southern Wisconsin Drought Information Statement, and visit our Southern Wisconsin Drought Information Page.
The maps below, which are based on analysis of multiple datasets, are released each Thursday at 7:30 AM Central Time.
Here is the expanded view of the Midwest from July 3rd:
The Midwest isn't the only area feeling the effects of a drought. Officials from the National Drought Mitigation Center stated that, "more of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor". The drought monitor released on July 5th shows that 46.84% of the United States and 55.96% of the continental United States is in the moderate drought category or worse. More information is available here. The current full scale U.S. Drought Monitor is shown below.
To view and compare current drought maps with previous maps, visit this website.
The dry conditions southern Wisconsin has experienced are largely attributable to a dry mid-level high pressure that has lingered over a large portion of continental United States. The high pressure has prevented ample moisture from the Gulf of Mexico from reaching the area. Furthermore, when the high was focused farther north, over our region, during early July it allowed high temperatures to climb to the triple digits which dried soils out even more.
To make matters worse, drought begets drought, meaning, less soil moisture and less evapotranspiration leads to even drier, warmer conditions, which further exacerbate drought conditions.
Unfortunately, model forecasts are not showing much modification or movement of the high over the next few weeks. The image on the left below shows the current mid-level pattern, while the image on the right shows the average two week forecast, valid at 7 pm on July 25th. Both images show a high pressure stretched over a large portion of the United States.
National Weather Service - Milwaukee/Sullivan, WI