The Illinois Drought Plateaus, But the Forecast Isn’t Good

Drought conditions didn’t worsen much in the last period, but the outlook for August is scary, and for the next three months as well, as drought and heat push a vicious cycle.

The creepiest news from the Midwest drought yet:

In Illinois, tens of thousands of largemouth and smallmouth bass and channel catfish have died, so many in one lake in fact that the carcasses clogged an intake screen at a power plant. The build up was so bad that water levels dropped to the point where the plant was forced to shut down a generator.

The good news? The Gulf dead zone is smaller thanks to a lack of runoff. Other than that, the only thing resembling good news is that Illinois’ drought conditions didn’t get much worse in the most recent period of monitoring.

But the forecast for August is pretty bad:

The short-term monitor (“a state of the art blend of science and subjectivity”) suggests that “exceptional” drought will cover much of the state, because the outlook for heat and precipitation is bad as well:

Illinois temperature precipitation forecast

In summary, that’s above-average temperatures (left) and below-average precipitation for both the one- and three-month outlooks.

Drought and heat are something of a vicious cycle, what climate scientist Todd Sanford calls the “drought-heat tango”:

[T]here was a recent study that found for many parts of the world, including North America, that the occurrence or risk of experiencing above average numbers of hot days increases 60-70 percent after periods of reduced precipitation. This study even zoomed in on Texas, which has been faced with a crippling drought over the past year. Dry years for Texas led to increases in the number of hot days experienced during those years. This probably won’t come as a surprise for people living there.

“If there’s a drought there’s likely a heat wave lurking around the corner,” writes Sanford.

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