RACINE — While the effects of last year’s drought continue to linger in Racine County, climate experts are optimistic that the region will be able to bounce back in 2013.
Doing so will require healthy amounts of precipitation needed to refill subsoil water levels that remained depleted. The wet weather through January and early February has been a good start, but the true test will come in the following months.
“We’ve had above-normal precipitation in southeast Wisconsin in January and February, so that definitely is putting a dent into the drought,” said Rusty Kapela, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “Hopefully, we can continue on that roll.”
During a drought, or even shorter stretches without rainfall, crops use up moisture in the topsoil and then resort to reserves in the subsoil, serving as a buffer or saving account, according to University of Wisconsin—Extension soil and water conservation specialist Bill Bland.
But after last year’s historic drought, Bland said, those levels are still recovering and require above-normal precipitation levels to be restored.
“We are running a little bit ahead, and through April and May there’s a lot of opportunities for us to get pretty well recharged,” Bland said. “So I’m still quite optimistic about it all.”
This year, both January and early February have been wetter than most years, according to the experts, but because the ground is frozen, or in some cases covered with snow, the amount of precipitation that actually reaches the subsoil is difficult to quantify, and totals for the past several months combined pale in comparison to the amounts that typically come in the next several months.
“We’re more optimistic than we were last fall,” Kapela said. “And we definitely have enough soil moisture that get the crops going, assuming normal precipitation from here on out.”
Kapela said that while no amount of precipitation is guaranteed, current forecasts for the next three months also call for above-normal levels. “Hopefully, we can continue on that roll.”
Inches of precipitation in Wisconsin
December 2011: 1.42
December 2012: 1.83
January 2012: 1.05
January 2013: 1.7
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration