Drought conditions are forecast to continue at least through August, says Jeff Rogers, state climatologist and a professor in Ohio State's Department of Geography. And unless the state gets a significant amount of rain soon, it could be winter before soil moisture levels return to where they would be considered normal, he said.
Already, the majority of Ohio is experiencing moderate drought, with areas in the western and northwest areas of the state near the Indiana border experiencing severe drought as of July 10, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor.
"Precipitation amounts have been running 50 to 70% of normal statewide for the last two months," Rogers says. "According to the current calculations, it would take 7 to 11 inches of rain to get us out of drought completely, which is hard to do because the summer conditions cause evaporation so quickly.
"But complete recovery of soil moisture will take 7 to 11 inches, something that will likely take thru winter to accomplish."
Currently, topsoil moisture was rated 49% very short, 39% short and 12% adequate, with no surplus, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture Weekly Crop Report.
The weekend rains, however, could be a boost to corn and soybean growers, as half-an-inch to an inch of rain could be enough to sustain crop development for the next week or so, he said.
"Forecasters are predicting up to an inch of rain in some spots this weekend which would be very useful," Rogers says. "If the corn crop and soybeans get some moisture, they might be able to survive and continue on for the year.
"One inch of rain will stave off impending disaster because at this point in corn growth, it needs the moisture. So hopefully this weekend rain will give corn and soybeans some moisture, but they probably won't get all the water they'd like."
This is significant, considering that as of July 8, 36% of Ohio's corn crop and 36% of its soybean crop was rated poor or very poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While the current drought conditions throughout Ohio are of concern, the dryness isn't as bad as the drought of 1988, in which precipitation amounts were 30 to 50 percent of normal statewide, he said.
"Ohio is now about a month to six weeks (in terms of drought conditions) behind the drought of 1988," Rogers said. "That drought started earlier.
"But there is a possibility that if we don't get much more precipitation, then we'd be about as bad as conditions were in 1988 was by the end of August."
According to Rogers, the drought that occurred in Ohio in 1988 resulted in:
Widespread failure of hay cuttings
Decreases in corn, soybean and wheat production.
Increased slaughter of livestock due to feed shortages, lower prices.
Increased insect activity and more disease in plants and crops.
Increased livestock heat stress.
The reason the area is experiencing current drought conditions has to do with the typical summer high pressure system that sits over the central U.S. This year it is much stronger than usual, which is preventing moisture from getting into the region, he said.
"The long-term forecast for the next month or two, calls for the expectation of higher-than-normal temperatures and lower-than-normal precipitation," Rogers says. "The current forecast expectation is for the drought to continue and potentially get worse."