Moderate drought conditions return to northern Boone County

Thursday, August 29, 2013 | 5:12 p.m. CDT; updated 11:25 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 30, 2013
The northern half of Missouri is experiencing drought conditions, with some counties in the northernmost part of the state undergoing severe drought.

Continued lack of rainfall and above-average temperatures have pushed northern Boone County into moderate drought conditions, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report.

The entire county had been classified as abnormally dry since early July. The Drought Monitor issued Thursday puts the northern half of Boone County in moderate drought; the southern half remains abnormally dry.

"The thing that has really accelerated this, this week especially, is not only the lack of rainfall, but the high heat," said Mark Fuchs, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service in St. Louis. "Not only are we not getting any rain, but what moisture we do have, we're losing much quicker."

The worst conditions exist in extreme north-central Missouri, where a group of counties fell into severe drought. More than 8 percent of Missouri is considered to be in severe drought; last week, the state was only in abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions.

Moderate drought across Missouri more than doubled from 15 percent last week to 31 percent this week, according to the Drought Monitor. A graphic demonstrating the spread of drought conditions in Missouri and across the country is available on the Drought Monitor's website.

In contrast, the area south of Jefferson City was drought-free due to the record rainfall earlier in the summer that caused flash floods in some areas. Fuchs said it is rare to have such different conditions so close to one another.

Produce and beef prices for the average consumer should not be affected greatly, said Bob Garino, director of the Missouri field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Most of the corn crop has already become mature enough to withstand above-average heat, though the lack of moisture might yield drier, less-full kernels, he said. The heat and lack of rain, though, might affect the soybean crop more than corn because soybeans bloom through August, Garino said.

Last year's drought had more dire effects on the crop production because it intensified during May and June, when corn and soybean plants were just beginning to grow, Fuchs said. Farmers are still experiencing the effects of the 2012 drought, one of the most severe in 25 years, according to a previous Missourian article.

"Last year was much more intense," Garino said. "It affected the entire state. This year it's just the northern part of the state. There's a lot of crops up there, but it won't be so bad."

Dry conditions have persisted in Missouri for several years, though Garino said conditions are drier in the southern U.S. 

"Three years in a row we've had these conditions," he said. "If it continues for a few more years, it might be part of a periodic dry spell." 

When considering drought conditions, the Weather Service considers soil moisture, humidity, heat, stream flows and the amount of rainfall compared to normal. The weather service uses four degrees of severity to describe drought: moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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