Jun 6, 2023 - Climate

With little rain in the forecast, Columbus is on drought watch

Illustration of the hot emoji as a sun.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The trace amounts of rain that fell during this weekend's pop-up storms weren't enough to quench our region.

Driving the news: Most of Central Ohio is abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. We haven't had measurable rainfall since May 20, 17 days ago — and the forecast isn't looking great for the foreseeable future.

Why it matters: A prolonged lack of rain can devastate crops and make summer temperatures swell, while also negatively affecting air quality and increasing wildfire risk.

  • Plus, it's no fun staying indoors all summer.
  • Case in point: Our region is under an air quality alert today, the third already this month.

Threat level: Del-Co Water is asking its 150,000 customers north of Columbus to conserve water by watering their lawns and plants less frequently.

  • The Columbus Department of Public Utilities' water supply has plenty of capacity, a spokesperson tells Axios, but staff "will continue to monitor reservoir elevations and weather patterns per usual."

By the numbers: So far, June's high temperatures are averaging nearly 9° above normal, at about 91° F, per National Weather Service data as of Monday.

  • May's 3.67 inches of rain was only 0.32 inches below average, thanks to a wet first half of the month, NWS meteorologist Matthew Campbell tells Axios.

What they're saying: The weather "is raising some eyebrows, but we're not hitting the panic button just yet," Ohio Farm Bureau spokesperson Ty Higgins tells Axios.

  • A silver lining: Since planting season wasn't disrupted by rainfall, corn and soybean seeds are in the ground ahead of schedule.
  • Anticipating the dry spell, farmers planted them deeper to get to the sub-soil moisture, Higgins says, and a majority are in "good to excellent" condition, per the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

What we're watching: ​​If current conditions continue, drought is predicted to develop later this month in most of Franklin County and over half of Ohio, per the Drought Monitor.

  • The website is updated weekly, with another data dump coming on Thursday.
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