July 1, 2015

Western Record Drought and Midwest Record Rains

By Mark Wachtler

July 1, 2015. Chicago. (ONN) If residents of California and the rest of the Western drought stricken states are wondering where all their rain went, they can look to the Midwest. While states out West are experiencing the driest and hottest summer on record, the Midwest is experiencing the wettest in recorded history. A quarter of the country is in the midst of a state of emergency over water shortages and another quarter of the nation, right next door, is enduring constant floods. What’s up?

Many Illinois farms are under water like this one due to heavy rains and rivers overflowing their banks. Image courtesy of KTRS 550AM St Louis.

We’re not even going to attempt to answer that loaded question. Half the world’s meteorologists are at war with each other over the reasons for the world’s current climate changes. But one thing is for certain based on the facts - America is currently experiencing the most extreme weather it ever has since records began being kept over 100 years ago.

When the calendar switched from June to July this morning, the previous month went into the record books as the wettest in recorded history. That’s not only the case here in Illinois where this publication is located, but in other Midwestern states as well. And to show readers just how extreme the rainfall has been throughout the farm belt, we didn’t just beat the previous record, we’ve received more than double the normal rainfall for the month of June.

According to data just released by the Illinois State Water Survey and the State Climatologist for Illinois, the state received 9.37 inches of rainfall in June 2015. That’s more than double the typical average for June of 4.20 inches. The previous record for the month was 8.27 inches in 1902. Official records for Illinois rainfall go back to 1895.

According to the same announcement, June 2015 was the second-wettest month of any month in recorded history. The only month that was wetter was September 1926 when 9.62 inches of rain fell on Illinois. The official Illinois Climatologist explains that the rainfall data comes from 650 rain gauges scattered across the state.

Illinois wasn’t alone in setting rainfall records last month. Neighboring Missouri has also set a few records of its own. As detailed by ABC 7 Chicago, St. Louis received 13.1 inches of rain in June 2015. That’s more than three-times the average June rainfall there of just over 4 inches. Just like Illinois, Missouri’s June rainfall was the second-most of any month ever. The record there is 14.78 inches in August 1946.

The record rainfall has led to recurring flash flood warnings, underwater bridges and devastated farmland. Just half way through the month of June, agriculture analysts were suggesting that over $1 billion in corn, soybeans and other farm produce would be lost this year due to flooding just in Illinois. Illustrating just how bad the situation is, the Mississippi River is 12 feet above flood stage. The Illinois River is 10 feet above flood stage. And the Ohio River is expected to crest 7 feet above flood stage.

That all comes in stark contrast to the drought currently ravaging California and other parts of the West and Southwest. According to the Department of the Interior and its US Geological Survey, the state of California has been in a Drought State of Emergency since January 2014. And when the annual check of water tables and ice caps was done April 1st of this year, experts and residents were horrified by the results.

The USGS documented that only 5% of the normal amount of snow was present during their yearly survey of the Sierra snowpack. It’s this snowpack that melts throughout the summer and supplies one-third of the overall water used by the state of California each year. It was the lowest amount of snow measured since record keeping began in 1950. That doesn’t bode well for the state. The previous year in 2014, when much more snow was present, was the third driest year for California in 119 years.

It’s bewildering to think that on the global scale, the American West and Midwest are literally right next to each other. And while one is experiencing the driest year in history, the other is experiencing the wettest in history.


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