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Ag Weather Update

Matt Dixon, Meteorologist

UK Ag Weather Center

Updated 10-26-23 at 5:30 PM EDT

Big changes on the way

Good afternoon, everyone! We have borderline-PERFECT weather conditions in place to end the workweek. Enjoy while you can because BIG changes are on the way. Thought I'd send out a quick update to discuss the latest!

Starting out, let's talk about our recent stretch of dry conditions. According to data with the Ag Weather Center, month-to-date, the state has only averaged about an inch of rainfall through October 25th! This is ~1.5 inches below normal and if the month ended today, it would place just outside the top-10 of driest Octobers on record.

Below is a look at month-to-date observed and departure-from-normal rainfall across the state. A large chunk of this average occurred over this past week, where much of the Bluegrass and Eastern KY saw a half to 1"+. Western and South Central KY have been on the other side of the spectrum. Some have even struggled to hit a half inch across the Southern Pennyrile. The lowest total in our datasets sits with Fort Campbell, which has only seen 0.09 inches in October!

We're now looking at a second straight month of well below normal rainfall. The extended period of dryness has led to another bout of drought conditions for portions of the Bluegrass State.

The latest update of the U.S. Drought Monitor, on October 26th, shows a slight uptick in coverage with roughly 74% of the state considered abnormally dry or in a moderate drought. The Purchase region is the latest area to be upgraded into the moderate category. Over the past 60 days, this region is running 4-5+ inches below normal. In just one example, the Hickman Mesonet station, in Fulton County, has only recorded 2.16 inches since August 27th, which is roughly 5 inches below normal!

Agriculture is winding down for the year and while we wouldn't mind seeing some moisture for our pastures and wheat establishment, concerns moving forward will largely be focused on long-term impacts and the low-levels on the Mississippi. Below is a look at a couple river gauges, one at New Madrid and the other at Memphis. Both see a slight drop for the start of November, but then start rising again heading into the second week of the month. Let's hope this verifies! Many river gauges have hit all-time record low stages this year, including Cairo, New Madrid, and Memphis. Below is a look at where these gauges currently stand, courtesy of the latest river update from the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center.

At the end of the day, we need a significant rainfall event to help the river situation and we really need it to happen across the Ohio River Basin, which is the largest contributor to flow on the Lower Mississippi. The latest 7-day precipitation forecast from the Weather Prediction Center points to some healthy amounts across Western KY and Southwest Indiana, as a front slowly works across the region over the next four days. 1.5+ inches is on the table, most of which looks to fall Saturday night and into Sunday. Saying that, looking at the models, there's still some wiggle room for changes. Nonetheless, amounts diminish moving farther east, but as mentioned above, the Bluegrass and Eastern KY were benefactors of some decent rains this past week.

Looking farther out, the latest 6-10 day outlook (below) doesn't necessarily paint a great picture. The dark brown shade hints at pretty high confidence from forecasters for below normal rainfall heading into the start of November.

Something else you'll notice in the outlooks above is the dark blue shades across the eastern half of the U.S., which signals a bout of below normal temperatures next week. Normal highs for early November run in the low to mid-60s, while lows average in the low 40s. Behind the frontal boundary mentioned above, forecast highs will struggle in the 40s between Monday and Wednesday. Subfreezing lows will very much be on the table starting Monday night for at least the western half of KY (some in the 20s). Depending on how fast clouds can clear, it could be the case farther east, too. Even if you don't hit the freezing mark on Tuesday morning, Wednesday looks like a good bet. In fact, a hard freeze will be in play for many across Kentucky. Maybe even some wind chills dipping into the teens.... Ultimately, this is pretty close to when we would normally expect our first freeze of the year (dates below).

Now's the time to start thinking about cyanide poisoning and removing livestock from pastures that pose a threat. As mentioned here, the main forage species that would cause concern include Johnsongrass, sorghum, and sudangrass; among others. UK suggests waiting two weeks before grazing again following a light frost. Usually 48 hours after a killing frost or until the plant material is dry.

Luckily, the cold spell looks to be relatively short-lived, but it does give us a taste of the winter season, which isn't too far off in the distance. The Climate Prediction Center recently released the winter outlook for the United States (maps below). Overall, the outlook favors above normal temperatures for our neck of the woods, while precipitation is more uncertain (equal chances for below-, near-, or above-average precipitation). Looking at the latter, there's other factors at play that can't be reasonably predicted until weeks or even days ahead of time. The National Weather Service in Louisville has a great, in-depth presentation on the topic, here.

Now.... what about weather folklore?!?!? :) I saw a white wooly worm on on my patio a couple weeks ago (pic above, snowy winter). I also heard from several Extension agents this week that they've seen persimmon seeds with spoons (a lot of shoveling). Maybe there's some truth to it this year (doubt it), but in the NWS article, the second half of winter has tended to be snowier for the region with past strong El Ninos. We'll see how it plays out, but I will's been awhile since we've seen a good snow storm....Until next time, folks!

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Related News from UK and Beyond

Kentucky Crop Progress and Condition Report - USDA NASS Kentucky Field Office, October 23, 2023

Corn & Soybean News - UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence, October 2023

October 1 Kentucky Crop Production Forecast - USDA NASS Kentucky Field Office, October 12, 2023

River Levels and Off-Farm Storage Disbursement - Southern Ag Today, Drs. Grant Gardner (UK) and William Maples (Mississippi State), October 23, 2023

UK webinar series provides crop-protection insights - Jordan Strickler with UK Ag Communications, October 16, 2023

Kentucky Fruit Facts - Daniel Becker, UK Extension Associate, October-November 2023

Critical invasive species now spotted in Kentucky - Jordan Strickler with UK Ag Communications, October 25, 2023

Kentucky fencing schools showcase the basics and new innovations - Aimee Nielson with UK Ag Communications, October 13, 2023

Five droughts that changed history - USGS

What we talk about when we talk about the jet stream and El Niño - Emily Becker with, September 29, 2023


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