Risk of flash drought increases in Indiana

NOAA and the National Integrated Drought Information System are forecasting the risk of a flash drought in Indiana in the coming weeks.

INDIANA, USA — An intense heat wave is taking hold in Indiana with plenty of sunshine and temperatures soaring into the 90s. June is typically Indiana’s wettest month and the month where tornadoes are highest. However, June 2024 brings late summer heat that could lead to a sudden drought.

For the latest temperature and heat stress forecasts, tap HERE.

What is a flash drought?

We all know what a drought is: a long period of drier than normal conditions, usually with warmer than average temperatures. This helps remove moisture from the soil. A flash drought is an accelerated drought. Onset or onset occurs very quickly. You can go from pleasant, rainy weather to losing a lot of this water with a few weeks of intense sun and heat. Basically, it’s when you go from lush, green surroundings to drought in just a few weeks. It’s very fast.

It’s hot in summer every year. This is not new. The problem with the upcoming heat wave is the actual heat (much in the mid-90s) and very limited chance of rain for at least a week. The high pressure system, which helps block large rain systems, is very powerful and will create almost an atmospheric wall blocking out the chance of rain.

Since June is typically the wettest month in central Indiana, the near total lack of precipitation will be very detrimental to crops, livestock and gardens throughout the state.

Why is this happening so quickly?

We were doing so well! As of June 1, Indianapolis was 3 to 4 inches ahead in precipitation for the entire year. Technically everything is fine, but the topsoil is about to lose most of its water very quickly.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. Very limited precipitation: you don’t add anything extra to the soil.
  2. High sun angle: June has the highest sun angle of the year, making the sunshine more intense.
  3. Rapid evaporation: The sun heats the soil, evaporating water from the topsoil very quickly. Additionally, high heat in the mid-90s helps speed up this process.
  4. High Transpiration: Our growing crops are currently releasing a lot of water. They extract moisture from the ground and then release it into the sky. It still happens, but we usually get a lot of rain in June, which usually doesn’t matter.

Who is most at risk of a flash drought?

Most of Indiana is at risk of flash drought, especially central and southern Indiana.

There may be a slightly higher risk in east-central Indiana, particularly around Muncie, New Castle, Greenfield and Richmond. There could also be another target for drought conditions in southern Indiana, particularly around Columbus, Seymour, Scottsburg, New Albany and Jeffersonville.

This specific forecast may change depending on where we may get isolated heat showers during the heatwave. These are quick-moving showers and thunderstorms that can break out when heat and humidity force the atmosphere into a thundercloud.

What will be the impacts of a flash drought?

We will closely monitor the threat to agriculture across the state. Large and rapid changes in soil moisture in Indiana can have a significant impact on the economy.

  • Watch for cracks in the soil of corn and soybean fields, especially in bare areas.
  • Your grass will start to look browner and become rougher (most likely less mowing).
  • Water levels in rivers and streams will drop.
  • Lake water levels could gradually decrease, but it could take longer.

If you want to protect your plants from intense heat, be sure to give them extra water.

Stay tuned as this situation evolves.

— 13News Meteorologist Matt Standridge

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