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Diminished but Lingering Drought Going into Late Fall

Updated 10/19/2012

As expected when fall progresses, areas of drought typically diminish as the high heat of summer is long gone. The drought of 2012 was largely driven by not only the much below normal precipitation, but the very warm temperatures. As in typical fashion in many past drought years, a slow demise occurs in autumn. The drought concern is not technically over, however. Many of the most severe droughts in history evolved from lingering droughts of previous years, in which below normal soil, groundwater and stream conditions lingered into a subsequent year which also was marked by low precipitation and above normal growing season temperatures. So while most of the general public's interest in dry conditions has waned by fall, drought conditions still must be monitored through the winter period. The latest Winter outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (below) does not show a strong chance of below normal winter precipitation at this time.

See the following graphics and links for further information on the dry conditions.

Drought Monitor National Page

USGS current 14-day average streamflow compared to historic streamflow for current day. Many locations are now approaching near normal levels.

Ohio Kentucky Indiana

Precipitation (2012 and comparison with recent notable drought years)

For many in the Ohio valley, 1988 was a devastating drought year. However, after the extreme 1988 growing season conditions, late summer and fall of 1988 were marked by areas of near to even above normal precipitation. As with many droughts, however, the rainfall deficit was simply too great and the rains came too late for the growing season. Winter of 1988-1989 was marked by a very active snow and flood season, which prevented the drought from lingering into the 1989 growing season. Winter of 2008, following the drought of 2007 near the Ohio river, was also marked by an active winter pattern and then widespread spring flooding. Since it's peak in mid summer, the drought of 2012 has certainly diminished, but significant deficits in precipitation and streamflow still exists in some areas. While agricultural or recreational need for precipitation has now passed, there is lingering fire weather concern through the fall. Conditions will also be monitored through the dormant (winter) season to determine any lingering potential impact on the 2013 growing season. Note the severe deficits that persist in the upper and middle Mississippi basin. This is the most vulnerable area of the country to lingering drought into 2013.

Precipitation Departures (Annual YTD Oct 19)

Below are comparisons of the precipitation (percent of normal) across the Ohio Valley from January 1st through October 19th for recent notable drought years. Images courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center.

Precipitation (January 1st through October 19th)


Jan 1st - Oct 19th


Jan 1st - Oct 19th


Jan 1st - Oct 19th

30, 60 and 90 Day Precipitation and Percent of Normal Precipitation

30 Day Rainfall

30 Day Rain as Percent
of Normal

60 Day Rainfall

60 Day Rain as Percent
of Normal

90 Day Rainfall

90 Day Rain as Percent of Normal


Latest Short-Term Precipitation Outlooks: 
HPC 5-Day forecast CPC 6-10 day outlook CPC 8-14 day outlook

The latest Seasonal Drought Outlook indicates persistence in drought conditions throughout the rest of the summer across much of Indiana. Further growth into Ohio and Kentucky are also likely. The discussion can be found here. 



Below are the one month and three month climate outlooks for precipitation.

For other news and information, check back with the NWS Wilmington Ohio homepage.

Related web sites

Additional information on current drought conditions may be found at the following web addresses:

U.S. Drought Monitor...
NOAA Drought Page...
Climate Prediction Center (CPC)...
Midwest Regional Climate Center...

Additional river information...

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Page last modified: October 19, 2012.
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