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Recent rain has Dane County moving in ‘right direction’; moderate drought remains
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Recent rain has Dane County moving in ‘right direction’; moderate drought remains

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The Madison area received much needed rain over the past 10 days, but it may not be enough to start making up for the precipitation deficit caused by drought conditions earlier this month. 

Since June 18, Madison has received 4 inches of rain, bringing the monthly total to 4.14 inches and just 0.63 inches shy of the normal amount of rainfall for June. 

“That doesn't gain us anything on the deficit that we had accumulated, but these plants need it now,” UW-Madison’s agronomy professor Christopher Kucharik said. “This was actually a really good stretch for them.” 

Through Sunday, the 2021 total rose to 11.32 inches — 6.58 inches below normal.  

The region has been struggling with drought conditions that developed in April, according to the National Weather Service. From June 17 through June 24, conditions in southern Dane County improved from severe to moderate drought, though parts of the southeast corner of the state remain in an extreme drought.

According to the USDA’s Wisconsin Crop Progress & Condition report for the week ending June 27, topsoil moisture levels improved with the recent rain, though “all districts are still drier than the 5-year average.”

The report showed that 19% of the state’s topsoil and 23% of its subsoil is dry, an improvement over the past two weeks.

Drought conditions map June 24

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows all of Dane County experiencing moderate drought as of June 17.

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“This rain definitely gets us in the right direction, but if we don’t keep getting rain, we’re going to quickly fall back into drought, especially farther south and west of us,” said Jason Otkin, an associate scientist at UW-Madison who specializes in drought.

The next couple of weeks into July are important as some crops hit the pollination stage and will continue to need adequate soil moisture and not too excessive heat.  

Otkin pointed out that typically farmers can count on wet conditions in June to carry crops through any dry spells the following month. 

“We still have the hottest time of year coming up,” Otkin said. “We got so hot so early this year … we still have July and August to go through yet.” 

After several years of historically wet springs, this year’s drought is swinging in the opposite direction. Kucharik said the extreme variability within growing seasons should continue to be expected over the coming decades.

Crawford County demonstrated that over the weekend as parts of the area received 8 to 10 inches of rain while just experiencing extreme drought conditions last week.  

According to the Weather Service, there are chances for showers and storms Monday through Thursday followed by dry weather over the weekend.  

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