Monroe county, Iowa
The summer of 2012 was a story of heat and drought for Monroe County. The damage to crops, however, wouldn’t be seen until the later end of the season.
In early July 100-degree heat and low rainfall started to take a toll on local crops. Curling corn leaves and low topsoil moisture were the first signs of a potential drought. At the time, most farmers weren’t worried. Mark Carlton, an Iowa State University field agronomist, noted that the subsoil was still moist.
“It got replenished two weeks or so ago,” Carlton said. “We got about four to six inches of rain and that was pretty good.”
By the beginning of August, the story had changed.
Carlton noted that the drought had become severe. He compared it to the summer of 1988 when he was a full-time farmer, not yet at ISU.
“It’s a mess,” Carlton commented.
“This one is worse than ‘88,” State Climatologist Harry Hillaker commented. He continued, “You would have to go back to 1936 to find a drought worse than this one.”
Hillaker said the July heat pushed this year’s drought ahead of the 1988 drought. Hillaker noted, Iowa’s worst recorded drought in 1936 was also fueled by a heat wave in July, the hottest and second-driest in 140 years.
“Heat makes droughts drier, and droughts make heat hotter,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center. In other words, the drought was being amplified.
“I do agree that damage from this year’s drought will surpass that of 1988,” said Fuchs.
In Albia, the July average was 94 degrees with a normal average being 85. The highest temperature was a whopping 105.1 degrees. 7 days in the month were over 100 degrees. Many more were in the high 90s
The drought would continue through November 2012.
Sources: “So far crops are weathering heat and dry,” Albia Newspapers, 2012; “Clock is ticking on Monroe County crops,” Albia Newspapers, 2012; Matt Milner, “Iowa Drought Status Largely Unchanged,” Oskaloosa Herald, 2012; Orlan Love, “ 2012 Iowa drought now worse than ’88,” The Gazette, 2012; “Albia, Iowa Climate Data,” US climate data, 2012.