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I am 65 years old. I've lived in the heartland of Illinois and Iowa my whole life. I now live in eastern Iowa. Since I was old enough to push a lawnmower safely, I have cut the grass once or twice a week in the spring and summer months. This is the first time in my life I have gone so long without mowing the lawn. The last time I cut the entire lawn was May 30. Let me show you why.

The grass where that photo was made is usually lush and green. Clearly, not this year. It is tinder dry. I have to admit I have run the mower once to trim a patch under the tree in our front lawn that gets watered every few days. See below. It was stressed and looked ill even before the summer months. The conservation service office suggested I water it more and fertilize at the appropriate time to possibly save it. If this tree dies, that's ten years of pleasure lost and an expense to replace.

This is not a diary about global warming, climate change, or the scientific arguments for or against it. This diary is about the impact our current drought is having on one aspect of my life. Granted, this is a pretty minor thing. But, drought has a very obvious impact in many different ways. I grew up on a farm in Illinois and have always been a close observer of the weather and climate. I was aware of changes from year to year in the course of the seasons. There were always departures. You never had a normal year. This year is very different and a big departure from the norms.

Are you feeling impacts, too? If you are observing changes in your surroundings that you would like to comment on, join me below the squiggle. I have a couple more pictures and some charts that show the local and regional conditions leading up to this drought.

First, I have a couple of additional yard pictures. This serviceberry bush is a hardy plant. There are lots of them in the woods behind the house. This week, I noticed the leaves on top are browning and starting to drop.

Toward the rear of the house some cracks are easily visible in the dry soil. This one below is typical and about 1/4" wide.

I've seen some much larger cracks in the soil around some farm fields. They are large enough to stick your hand down into up to your wrist. My son-in-law farms corn and soybeans in southeast Iowa. He remarked last week how the crop projections are for 12% decrease at this time. And, they are expected to get worse.

This is a very critical time for corn production. It is tasseling and forming ears. The lack of moisture will stunt the formation of kernels. When we drive by cornfields, we notice the leaves are rather vertical and rolled up. This exposes less to the direct sun and cuts water loss by the plant. The loss of corn crop will have an impact of cattle feeding, corn sweetener production, cereals, and lots of other industries that use corn. We will all pay more.

Below is the combined temperature and precipitation chart for 2012 for the weather reporting station not far from me. The green band in the temperature chart is the normal range of highs and lows. Notice how our winter months had a lot of above average temperatures. The dark blue plot is consistently at the high part of the green band. In mid-March, we set some records for highs. Below, in the precipitation chart, the winter months were running below the smooth curved line of the average precipitation. Only in late April and early May did we get slightly above the normal precipitation curve as shown in a dark green.

Notice what happened to precipitation since the first week of May. It has only increased by about 3" in two and a half months. We now have a total of 11.24". The normal is close to 19". May, June, and July are normally the wettest months of the year in the midwest. Not this year.

The precipitation deficit for the year is widespread in the heartland as evidenced by the chart below. The crop growing states of Iowa to Ohio and beyond are showing large deficits in precipitation and soil moisture. Both are key elements to vigorous crop growth.

If you are curious about your specific region and the impact of the drought this year, you should visit this website called for a wealth of information. It has maps and charts, projections, state by state, or regional outlooks, and more.

As I stated above, this diary is not a scientific analysis of drought. It is a personal commentary about one particular impact it has had on me and my lawn mowing. It is reflective of the bigger problem we are facing, that of repeated years of this kind of weather and climate.

I invite you to tell about anything you observe in your locale. How is it being impacted? Is there anything you do to lessen the impact? Is your community taking measures to conserve water? Thank you ahead of time for your comments.

Originally posted to SciTech on Tue Jul 17, 2012 at 08:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, and Backyard Science.


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