sealPurdue News
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May 15, 2002

Wet weather pattern may be slowly changing for the better

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For all waterlogged farmers, gardeners and golfers, there may be an end in sight.

Officially, this has been the wettest Indiana spring in more than 100 years, but the current weather pattern of excessive rains followed by very short dry spells may be changing for the better, said the Indiana state climatologist located at Purdue University.

"The weather systems may be slowing down a bit," said Ken Scheeringa (pronounced SCARE-ring-ga). "Our dry period appears longer this week, and next week the weather forecast is for normal precipitation."

These past few weeks have been anything but normal. From March 1 to May 13, Indiana received, on average, 15.63 inches of rain – the most rain for any such period in the last 107 years. In fact, this spring's rains outpaced the previous high water year of 1922 by more than one inch. That year the state averaged 14.51 inches of rain from March to mid-May.

"Normal precipitation would be one inch per week instead of one inch per day," Scheeringa said.

Spring temperatures also have been cooler than normal, increasing the time it takes to dry up wet fields and lawns.

As of Monday (5/13), only 11 percent of the state's corn crop had been planted, and just 3 percent of Indiana's soybean crop is in the ground, according to agricultural statistics reports.

"If it stops raining, we're about one week away from planting," said Ellsworth Christmas, Extension agronomist. "Some areas are two weeks or more from planting because of standing water."

While the forecast calls for more soaking rains in the state later this week, Scheeringa said the end to this rainy season may be in sight.

"This spring two jet streams – the polar jet along the Canadian border and the subtropical jet from the southwest – have collided right over Indiana," he said. "This has caused prolonged storminess as colder air clashes with warm, moist air.

"We're starting to get some higher amplitude waves in the stronger polar jet stream. Instead of just racing from west to east across the country, the jet stream is doing more looping, creating dry ridge areas that provide longer dry intervals between storms."

This pattern also may detour some storms north and south of Indiana.

As the calendar nears summer, the jet stream normally weakens.

"Typically in the spring, the cold and warm air battle within weather systems driven by the jet stream," Scheeringa said. "However, in the summer, the weather is driven more by local heating and the jet stream weakens in intensity."

The new 30-, 60- and 90-day forecasts come out Thursday (5/16), and Scheeringa expects them to bring some hope to farmers still waiting to get into their fields.

Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722; forbes@purdue.edu

Sources: Ken Scheeringa, (765) 494-8105

Ellsworth Christmas, (765) 494-6373

Related Web site:
Delayed Planting Web site

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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