Today’s rain a temporary break from dry pattern

Published 11:35 am Saturday, November 5, 2022

By Skip Rigney

For most of us, pleasant weather involves dry weather, an opinion that wouldn’t be so popular if more of us depended on rain for profitable livelihoods. Just over 70 percent of the United States is experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions, a proportion that has been steadily growing since early September according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly analysis produced jointly by the by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The unusually broad expanse of unusually dry conditions is why the lower Mississippi River has fallen to historically low levels in Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Barges on the river are only being loaded to partial capacity to ensure they don’t go aground, and tugs aren’t able to move as many barges as they can when the river level is higher.

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As if food prices haven’t gone up enough over the past couple of years, low water in the Mississippi River will continue the upward pressure on food prices in coming months. That’s because, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, nearly 95 percent of corn and soybeans grown in the United States ends up on the Mississippi River.

In southeast Mississippi, we too are in the midst of an abnormally dry period, although the direct economic impacts here aren’t anywhere near what is being experienced in the agricultural heartland of the Mississippi River Valley.

Historically, during the 42-day stretch from September 24 through November 4, the average number of days with measurable rainfall in Pearl River County is about ten. Of course, as with most climate statistics, there have been plenty of cases significantly wetter and drier than the average.

Twenty years ago in 2002 it rained at the Poplarville Experiment Station on 21 days during this 42-day period. On the other extreme, during the span of September 24 through November 4 in both 1952 and 1953, parched is the word that comes to mind. It didn’t rain at all in Poplarville during that six-week period in 1952, and only once during that stretch of autumn 1953. Over the one-hundred plus years of records available for Poplarville, there have been only fifteen years when it has rained on fewer than five days during the six weeks from September 24 through November 4.

These last six weeks of 2022 fall into that unusual fifteen percent category of fewest rainy days. It has rained only four days since September 24th at most locations in Pearl River County. The dry spell at Poplarville goes back even further, with only four days with measurable rain at the Experiment Station in the 54 days between September 12 and November 4 this year.

It’s not surprising then that our total rainfall is also below normal for the last six weeks. However, last Saturday most of the county received between one-half and two inches of rain, which made at least a small dent in our rainfall deficit.

We could get an inch or even two of rain today as a weak cool front approaches before the front stalls and then retreats northward as a warm front. After a slight chance of a light, isolated shower Sunday afternoon, it’s back to another several days, if not longer, of dry weather.