Staying Hot, Slipping into Drought

We are nearly one month into the summer season and it certainly has felt like the hottest part of the year in North Central Wisconsin.  After making it through a 5 day heat wave, including a number of record highs, and triple digits for three days straight in Wisconsin Rapids, a cold front did finally scour out the heat and humidity.  The main downside since June 21st has been the lack of rainfall in much of the area and certainly in the southern parts of the state.  For those of you that reside in the Northwoods, we did experience some strong to severe storms on July 6th, and through the first week of the month Rhinelander picked up 3.10" of rain.  As of July 13th, that is 1.20" above normal.  As you'll notice below, with the exception of the northern part of Florence Co. much of the northern half of the state has experienced enough rainfall this spring & summer to avoid drought conditions.

The same can't be said the farther south one heads in the Badger State, especially from Prairie du Chien to Madison and Racine.  Here are the current rainfall totals and deficits both locally and in the southern parts of the state from June 1st through July 13th.

Wausau: 4.59" (-1.27")
La Crosse: 3.24"  (-2.81")
Madison: 0.32" (-6.05")
Milwaukee: 1.69" (-3.82")

Here is a great graphic courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center showing the total rainfall over the last 30 days in the Upper Midwest.  The more greens to reds, as illustrated by the key on the graphic, the greater the amount of rain.

If you have had an opportunity to travel through locales south of highway 10, you'll notice the corn fields aren't as tall, the ground is fairly parched, some lakes have dried up considerably, and only those fields with irrigation are still getting by with a decent looking crop.  As seems to be the case, it is a case of the haves and have nots as to where the bands of showers and storms have come to fruition of the last month and a half.  You'll recall that NW Wisconsin and NE Minnesota were inundated with heavy rainfall back in June that lead to historic flooding in Duluth and Superior. For the most part, an outbreak of severe weather, particularly those supercell storms producing tornadoes have been kept in check to this point in the year. Through July 13th, only 1 tornado has been confirmed in Wisconsin, and that was the twister that impacted Rib Mountain back on May 24th.  This is the least amount of tornadoes ever reported in the state this far into the year on record.

Meantime, thanks to an unseasonably warm March and above average temperatures for the first 6 months of 2012, it comes as no surprise that it this year has been one of  the warmest on record in North Central Wisconsin.  The average temperature in Wausau from 1/1 to 6/30 was 45.5 degrees, which is 1.5 degrees higher than the previous warmest year which was in 1998.  Meantime, Rhinelander has had it's 3rd warmest first half of the year, with the average temperature working out to being 39.9 degrees, still 1.3 degree cooler than the high mark in 1998. 

Thus above average temperatures and drier than average conditions seem to go hand in hand on a regular basis.  The big question is, will the fairly dry weather continue or will we see a turn toward damper conditions?  At least in the short term, there are chances of showers and thunderstorms in the forecast through the middle of July. We would need to see a pattern shift that allows for fronts to pool more moisture and thus drop decent amounts of rain to get back on the positive side of the scale.  It is that time of the year where a heavy single storm or line of storms can erase a rainfall deficit in short order.  No less, if we continue dry heading through the 2nd half of summer, that will not bode well for the many crops in the region.

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