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Ag Weather Update

Updated May 18, 2021

Welcome to the first edition of the UK Ag Weather Update. If you don’t already know me, I’m Matt Dixon, and I’ve been a meteorologist with the UK Ag Weather Center for roughly nine years. I will be sending a weekly newsletter that looks at the current climate conditions, weekly forecast, and long-range outlooks throughout the growing season. I hope this information will help farmers with management and production-related decisions.

You are encouraged to share this email to fellow Kentuckians across the state, especially those in the agricultural community. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please use the link below to sign up. Also, at the end of this email, you'll find additional links in case you need email me, visit the UK Ag Weather Center website, or see what we've posted on Twitter.

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Past Conditions

Following a wet start to May, the faucet essentially shut off this past week, giving farmers a chance to get back in the field. In fact, the state only averaged 0.08 inches for the week (data below), most of which fell over the latter half of the weekend. Judging by May standards, we also had fairly cool temperatures for this time of year. In fact, temperatures ran below normal for the entire week. These below normal temperatures follow a recent pattern, with the state average temperature staying below normal four of the past five weeks. Through May 16, high temperatures for the month have averaged about six degrees below normal. Low temperatures have been roughly four degrees below normal. In comparison, our highs are normally in the middle to upper 70s for this time of year, while lows typically run in the middle 50s.  

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I hate to say it, but for the first time this growing season, we may have to start talking about dry conditions. We just finished a week where the state only averaged 0.08 inches, and soil moisture levels are now on the decline. The return of summer-like temperatures later this week won’t help matters. Starting this Thursday and lasting through at least the weekend, highs are expected to rise into the mid to upper 80s. I would not be surprised to see some locations hit 90 for the first time this year. Unfortunately, rain, which would mitigate the affects of the heat, is not in the forecast. Outside of some additional isolated to scattered rain chances today and isolated coverage across the northern half of Kentucky tomorrow, I believe most will stay dry the rest of the week. The map above shows the precipitation forecast over the next seven days from the Weather Prediction Center, most of which is expected to happen early this week. We are expecting a tenth of an inch or less for much of the state. This isn’t bad news for everyone. Hay producers will want to keep an eye on the forecast as currently, as an extended window of dry weather will be in play starting on Thursday, possibly even Wednesday.

Looking farther out, long-range outlooks continue to point toward a warmer second half of May with high confidence in above normal temperatures. While the trend of drier conditions should continue into the May 23-27 time frame (image below), the outlooks start to switch their tune for the last full of week of May, which is something to keep an eye on. When reading these maps, darker shades of brown suggest high confidence in below normal precipitation, while dark green is associated with higher confidence in above normal rainfall.

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Read the Kentucky Ag Weather Synopsis

New Climate 'Normals' Released

Weather and climate obviously play a huge part in the determining the success of an agricultural operation. Living in Kentucky, we are all very well accustomed to the fact that our weather can change at a moment’s notice, but what about our climate? That’s changing too. One way we can track these changes is with the release of new climate “normals,” which happened in early May. These normals are essentially the 30-year average of a particular weather variable, providing a comparison to current weather conditions and forecast. 

The data is updated every ten years to reflect any changes to our climate. Our new set of normals is based on the years of 1991-2020, replacing the 1981-2010 normals. Ultimately, this recent decade has shown a shift to a wetter and warmer climate across the Lower Ohio Valley. Looking at precipitation specifically, Kentucky is showing some of the greatest increases across the United States. In the past ten years, Kentucky has seen five of its top-10 wettest years on record and four of the top-10 warmest (data going back to 1895). Taking a quick look at the latest normals, Kentucky annual normal precipitation has increased from 47.9 inches (1981-2010) to 50.38 inches (1991-2020). Average annual temperature has increased from 55.9 degrees F (1981-2010) to 56.4 (1991-2020). The maps below from the Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies show the extent of annual precipitation and temperature change across the United States. More information on the new climate normals and data access to a location near you can be found at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information at



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