January rain nearly eliminates Indiana's drought

The 2012 drought forced farmers to plow fields early and lose crops.

January's rain has nearly wiped out Indiana's drought, according to the State Climate Office at Purdue University.

That's good news for farmers who have been hoping for winter precipitation to recharge the soil with moisture needed for spring planting.

More rain is in the forecast this week, and the outlook for early spring is encouraging. Last summer's La Niña pattern led to record drought. So far this year, there is a Pacific Ocean neutral weather pattern - meaning neither El Niño nor La Niña will be a factor.

The latest monthly report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a cool February with equal chances of above-normal, normal or below-normal precipitation. Further ahead, the outlook through April - a busy month for farmers planting their crops - favors above-normal precipitation.

The drought persisted through November and December until a warm-up Jan. 8-12 melted snowpacks and allowed the ground to thaw. According to the climate office, light rain fell every day during the warm spell and became heavy on Jan. 13, with as much as six inches of rain for the week in the extreme southwest counties. Other Indiana counties saw one to three inches of rain, except for extreme northwest Indiana. That rain led to river flooding in some spots.

The latest drought monitor map shows the impact of the rain.

Abnormally dry conditions - the lowest level of dryness - that had persisted in central and southern Indiana have been erased. The area of moderate drought - the first level of drought - in the north has shrunk to just a few northwestern counties. That area needs about three inches of rain to return to normal. Northeastern Indiana has improved from moderate drought conditions to abnormally dry. It needs about 1.5 inches of rain.


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