OTTUMWA — Spring was cooler and wetter than average this spring, but the trend appears to have ended in June.
The National Weather Service says Ottumwa averaged more than six degrees below normal in March. But June was only 0.6 degrees off the average.
The month was dry, too. Ottumwa saw monthly precipitation totals more than 5 inches above normal in both April and May. But rainfall was 2.7 inches below normal for the area in June.
But does that mean the area is slipping back into drought the way it did in 2012? Forecasters don't think so.
Miles Schumacher, the senior forecaster for the National Weather Service office in Des Moines, wrote in the office's official outlook that there “is no strong signal to indicate that Iowa will return to drought conditions,” and that “the summer is expected to be much different than last year.”
Part of the reason forecasters don't expect a return to the hot, dry weather of 2012 is this past spring. High levels of soil moisture make it harder for things to heat up, which would in turn dry the ground faster.
Drought conditions to the west could lead to some spikes in temperature, but Schumacher expects those to be the exception rather than the rule.
“Heat is likely to build on the High Plains,” wrote Schumacher, “leading to some spikes of hot weather this summer. Though the very warm weather may be nearby, each episode is not expected to last for very long. Overall, the rest of the summer is likely to average just slightly above normal.”
What does that mean in real terms? In 2012, Iowa saw double the normal number of days at 90 degrees or higher. Forecasters believe the number will be much closer to normal when the summer of 2013 ends.
And this fall could be a bit cooler than normal. Since cooler air carries less moisture, Schumacher's outlook suggests Iowa could be drier than normal this fall.
Last week was the driest for Iowa since early April, according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker. Hillaker's summary of the week's weather was part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Monday.
The dry weather boosted Iowa crops, the USDA concluded. But it also started dipping into soil moisture reserves and, if it continues, could leave some areas in need of rainfall.
None of those reports, of course, could take into account widespread rain that fell on Iowa, including southeast Iowa, on Tuesday.