FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It has been awhile since substantial rainfall fell across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. Before some light rain passed through Saturday night, Fort Wayne had not seen measurable rainfall since the derecho moved through on June 13th.
This lack of rainfall is one factor in a ‘flash drought’ that is developing across the area. According to Rachel Cobb, National Weather Service Northern Indiana Observing Program Leader and Forecast Meteorologist, flash drought is the rapid intensification of drought. It is set in motion by below normal precipitation rates, abnormally high temperatures, wind, and radiation. The state of crops, the amount of soil moisture, and how much water is in wells and aquifers are examined to determine the strength of the drought and speed of developing drought conditions.
The term was first used in 2002, but it did not start gaining momentum and being widely researched until 2020 after a large-scale flash drought occurred in the southeast United States in 2019.
Flash drought is different from a typical seasonal summer drought. It happens around here every few years, with the last extreme flash drought happening back in 2012. That year, the area went from no drought in April to extreme drought by late June. Thankfully, this year’s flash drought is mild so far, with only part of the area developing abnormally dry conditions. Another positive aspect of this drought is that the onset of the drought waited until after the crops were planted.
Flash droughts are more common in the Great Plains and the western portions of the Midwest. These locations tend to get hotter and drier than us. These locations stand a higher chance of seeing a drought of greater severity as the summer goes on. All of our area though will likely see the drought expand by some degree throughout the rest of the summer. Fort Wayne remains around 4 inches below normal for precipitation this year. Visit this link to view the latest version of the drought monitor.
Cobb says one study in particular is showing that flash droughts may be on the increase as global temperatures are rising. They are striking faster in the past two decades, with 33 to 46 percent of flash droughts emerging within only 5 days. This is an incredibly fast onset compared to a normal drought that takes months to even years to develop. Heat waves are taking us from no drought to drought in a very short amount of time. Click here to learn more about flash droughts.
Cobb recommends conserving water during this time. Take care of leaky faucets and do not run your dishwasher until it is full. You also can put your dishes in the dishwasher without rinsing them first. If you are watering your lawn, do it before 6 AM or after 7 PM when evaporation rates are lower.
If you would like to get involved, you can monitor and submit drought reports through CoCoRaHS. The weather service and other partners will use these reports to assess drought conditions. Visit this link to learn more.