The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

October 27, 2012

Winter forecast a toss-up

Any precipitation an improvement on continuing Iowa drought, climatologist says

OTTUMWA — A warmer, drier winter would mean less money spent on snow removal. On the other hand, a colder, wetter winter would help Iowa recover from the summer’s drought, Iowa’s climatologist said.

The National Weather Service’s winter outlook slightly favors a warmer and drier winter than normal for Iowa’s mid-winter months (December, January and February), said state climatologist Harry Hillaker.

“But there really aren’t any strong indications one way or the other,” he said. “The main impetus in that outlook was the expectation that there was going to be an El Nino event developing in the Pacific Ocean.”

Historically, he said, when that happens there’s a higher chance for a warmer, drier mid-winter season.

“However, the El Nino event has been trying to develop since April this year, and it hasn’t quite gotten there yet,” he said. “So I’m not putting a whole lot of stock in that outlook.”

As far as Iowa’s continuing drought, that’s more complicated, Hillaker said.

“Chances are the drought is not going to get any worse, even if the outlook is true,” he said. “The reason for that is at this time of year, evaporation rates — because things will dry out further — are down to almost zero.”

So any precipitation Iowa sees is going to improve things, at least to an extent, he said.

“In mid-summer when it’s in the 90s, if you don’t get rain for a few days, vegetation is transpiring and ponds are evaporating,” he said. “This time of year there’s nothing growing so you don’t have vegetation pulling moisture out of the ground.”

Chances are the drought will lessen as time goes on, he said, due to the lack of evaporation.

“The dry winter forecast, even if it does happen, isn’t maybe as bad as it sounds,” he said.

And a dry forecast means a better bottom line for the city of Ottumwa. In a previous interview with the Courier, city Finance Director Bob Jay said for the winter of 2011-12, the city had budgeted $300,000 for snow removal and only ended up spending $120,000.

Just in case, though, the city budgeted $317,000 for this winter based on averages from a period of several years.

“We normally budget for what we see in a trend over several years,” Jay said. “If it’s worse, we’ll have to come up with the money somewhere else in the fund. If it’s less, the money stays in the fund and rolls over to next year.”

Wapello County’s budget was helped as well, since they have leftover unused salt and sand from last year’s mild winter.

Fall has not been particularly wet so far, Hillaker said, but the region has had enough rain that soil moisture levels have increased. Pond and river levels will be the last things to improve in the drought, since they respond after soil has improved.

“In a big picture, it doesn’t make much of a difference,” he said. “This winter season is normally the driest time of the year anyway as far as precipitation. Even a very dry winter isn’t much different than a typical dry winter.”

Hillaker said he has heard many say this summer’s drought was especially bad since last winter was so dry.

“But generally, winter precipitation won’t make much of a difference one way or another,” he said.

Since dry soil cools much more quickly than wet soil, that could cause problems for cities if this winter is extremely cold, he said.

“The ground could freeze to a greater depth, which presents the concern of water lines freezing,” he said.

Agriculturally, farmers might like to see a really cold winter to freeze the ground to ward off adverse types of insects. On the other hand, he said, there are also good insects farmers don’t want killed off.

“So the net change won’t be that big of a deal,” he said.

1
Text Only
Ottumwa
  • Parks Dept. has long list of projects

    OTTUMWA — The Parks and Recreation Department has approved a list of capital improvements for the next two years that includes the installation of handicapped-accessible swings and new park bathrooms.

    July 9, 2014

  • 0710 Farmers Market Color Photo 1 -L -M Fresh food improves community

    OTTUMWA — Every summer across the Midwest, food stands pop up on gravel roads, and farmers markets are filled with a variety of home-grown products. Finding a fresh selection of healthy greens and juicy fruits isn't as hard as you might think. Accord

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0703 OTT Heart boy photo A Heartfelt Miracle OTTUMWA — It’s funny how wishes can change so completely in just a few weeks. But laughter wasn’t the reaction of Jeff and Mary Penrod.The Ottumwa couple’s son, Brandon, was 18 years old when, in February, Mary took him to the Pella clinic to get loo

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0703 OTT River Hills parking lot color photo -L -T River Hills expansion progresses

    OTTUMWA — Expanding River Hills Community Health Center downtown continues to be a priority with the Ottumwa City Council. Earlier this week, the council authorized city staff to survey the property, prepare a draft developers agreement as well as pr

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Street repair program begins OTTUMWA — If you think roadwork projects in the city of Ottumwa are just about complete, think again. This week, the Ottumwa City Council awarded its preventative maintenance contract for sealing cracks in asphalt and concrete pavement roads througho

    July 2, 2014

  • A new look OTTUMWA — The 300 block of East Main Street in Ottumwa will be getting a facelift. During a public hearing earlier this week, the Ottumwa City Council gave its OK to the plans and specifications to renovate 15 buildings’ storefronts in downtown Ottum

    July 2, 2014

  • City won't tolerate bad behavior

    OTTUMWA — A newly designed policy to establish standards of behavior was presented to Ottumwa City Council on Tuesday night.The new policy’s introduction on Tuesday, demands city staff and elected officials exhibit professional behavior when they int

    July 1, 2014

  • 0702 OTT library grant color photo -T -L -M Ottumwa Public Library updates genealogy room

    OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Public Library is the recipient of a Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund Grant from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation. The Friends of the Ottumwa Public Library group gave $5,520 to put toward a new microfilm reader. The

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0625 OTT Riverfront Renaissance color photo -L -M Riverfront Renaissance begins mapping out ideas

    OTTUMWA — It was serious work to play with stickers and maps Tuesday evening. Concentration was on more than 70 faces as colored dots found their way up and down several maps of the river flowing through downtown Ottumwa. The Ottumwa Regional Legacy

    June 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0624 OTT Marine photos Marine mourned by family

    OTTUMWA --- Adam Wolff's extended family was able to enjoy a bit of time with him before he deployed. "He came back in March, after his [Marine Corps advanced] schooling in North Carolina," said his sister, Angela Malone. "We had a dinner for him, a

    June 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National