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Ag Weather Update

Matt Dixon, Meteorologist

UK Ag Weather Center

Updated 10-28-22

Saw some rain, but need more!

Much of Western and Central Kentucky finally saw some decent rainfall on Tuesday and Tuesday night, breaking what had been an extremely dry stretch of weather. This was by no means a drought buster, but will at least help out with fire issues and getting some much needed moisture in the ground for our winter wheat. Below is a look at those totals, courtesy of the Kentucky Mesonet. Overall, most across Western KY landed in the half to one inch range. Those numbers then dropped significantly to the east, only amounting to a quarter inch or less for Eastern KY.

Even with the rain, the state is still running well below normal over the past 30 days. Since September 27th, the state has only averaged 0.72 inches, roughly 2.5 inches below normal. You really have to go back to the first week of September to find the last time most of Kentucky saw some decent rainfall. Below is a look at the 30 and 60 day departure from normal precipitation. Most everyone is running at least 2-3 inches below normal over the past 30 days. Some are in the 4-5+ inch range when going back 60 days! Bottom line, its been dry for AWHILE! This will mark a second straight month of below normal rainfall and sixth out of the past eight.

Impacts have increased tremendously over the past month, especially in the way of fires. The National Weather Service in Paducah provided a summary of the fires on October 13th/14th and included the picture from Felicia Daniel and Beau Dodson below. This field caught fire along the Henderson and Webster County line. Even with the recent rain, over 50 counties remain under a burn ban. As harvest continues, don't let your guard down!

We're also seeing the signs of hydrological drought settling into the area. Streams and ponds continue to diminish, along with the Mississippi River, which in some cases is reaching levels not seen since the 1980s. Check out NWS Paducah for satellite imagery showing the difference in river levels along the Mississippi River between July and October. Below is look at the 30-day percent of normal precipitation for the Upper and Lower Mississippi River Basins, courtesy of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). The large majority of the region has seen less than 50% of normal rainfall. Grain barges continue to have a hard time with transport. NIDIS reports the current volume of goods transported on the river is 45% less than usual.

Combine all the data/impacts and you get the latest update from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Over 80% of the state is now considered in a drought. 'Severe' drought conditions expanded by roughly 30% last week and much of the Purchase is now in an 'Extreme' drought. You have to go back to fall of 2016 to find the last time we had more coverage of 'Extreme' drought across the state.

You might ask yourself...wait, we saw rainfall on Tuesday and Tuesday night. Shouldn't we have seen some improvement? This rain actually fell after the data cutoff which is early Tuesday morning. Saying that, we still need a lot more. If the month ended today, it would be a top-10 driest October on record. We have a lot of catching up to do!

As a side note, we're not alone across the country. In fact, roughly 84% of the country is now considered at least abnormally dry, the highest percentage ever recorded by the U.S. Drought Monitor!

So what's it looking like moving forward? Friday and Saturday run dry, but we do have some good news for the latter half of the weekend as widespread showers starting moving into the area Saturday night and into Sunday. Could also see some scattered showers on Monday. Half inch+ looks like a decent bet at this point for much of Kentucky. I'm still hesitant about Eastern KY making that number, but let's hope for the best! Below is a look at those accumulations over the next few days from the Weather Prediction Center.

Afterwards though....outlooks are trending drier once again. Below is a look at the 6-10 and 8-14 day outlooks, extending out through November 10th. In some good news, outlooks are showing high confidence in a period of above normal temperatures. Just to put in perspective, normal highs for early November run in the upper 50s to middle 60s across Kentucky. We'll see some 70s again!

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Related News from UK and Beyond

Kentucky Crop Progress and Condition Report - USDA NASS Kentucky Field Office, October 23, 2022

Kentucky agriculture at Mother Nature’s mercy as drought conditions worsen, Mississippi River traffic slows - Aimee Nielson, UK Ag Communications, October 20, 2022

Timing is Everything on Corn Yields this Year - Dr. Chad Lee, UK Extension Grain Crops Specialist, October 15, 2022

Cover Crop Establishment - Dr. Erin Haramoto, UK Associate Professor in Plant and Soil Sciences, October 15, 2022

U.S. Winter Outlook: Warmer, drier South with ongoing La Nina - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, October 20, 2022

USDA Disaster Assistance Programs at a Glance - United States Department of Agriculture, July 2022

Fast-Onset Droughts are Accelerating - Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, September 1, 2022


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