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Drought Conditions Worsens As Heat Index Rises

Last updated on Tuesday, July 17, 2012

(UNDATED) - Drought conditions and heat indexes above 100 degrees still threaten the state.

Victoria Ison, of the Herald Times reports, on Monday, the National Weather Service issued a special weather statement that warns of increasing temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday, brought on by a "strong ridge of high pressure." Monroe and surrounding counties are expected to be affected, as are more than 30 others statewide.

WEATHER ALERT: Heat advisory in effect

"Fortunately, it looks like these sort of hot temperatures will be a little less prolonged than what we experienced the last few weeks," said meteorologist Joseph Nield, of the National Weather Service's Indianapolis station. "It will get higher (Tuesday) and Wednesday and cool down when we get to the latter part of the week and the weekend."

Tuesday's and Wednesday's heat indexes could approach or exceed 105 degrees because of temperatures in the high 90s and humidity levels near 60 to 70 percent, Nield said. After the brief break at the end of the week, when temperatures are predicted to be in the 80s, the heat will continue.

A vicious cycle

"Part of the problem is that droughts tend to be self-perpetuating," Nield said. "When you get ground that's very dry, it's much easier for it to heat up. Days that in ordinary conditions might only reach the low 90s now very easily get in the mid- or upper 90s. A drought tends to be a bit of a vicious cycle; when one gets bad, it tends to sustain itself."

Indiana's current drought has gotten bad.

From June 1 through Monday, the Indianapolis airport received less than a tenth of an inch of total rain. That makes 46 days of no significant rainfall, a dry span of time so long it beats Indiana's record of 45 days set during the late summer drought of 1908.

Scattered showers not enough

Though scattered thunderstorms have dumped rain on various parts of the state - enough in Greene County two weekends ago for the county to suspend its burn ban - regular rainfall is what's needed to correct the situation, as best as can be done.

That hasn't happened yet. After a mostly dry week left farmers suffering and their fields dusty, Greene County reinstated its burn ban Monday.

Nield said that while one area might get some rain from a passing storm, that's not enough to stop drought effects.

"If the area around it remains dry, it's still losing a lot of water to evaporation, and you have water running into streams that are at very low levels," Nield said. "As far as relieving drought conditions, a county here and there doesn't make much a difference. We need large-scale rainfall."

Lawrence County's burn ban remains in effect, like bans in 86 more of Indiana's 92 counties. In addition, the city of Bloomington closed the boathouse at Griffy Lake Monday because of low water levels. The lake will be drained later this month to allow for repairs to the dam and sluice gate.

Private boaters are still permitted to use the lake if they find it can support their watercraft - and they're willing to brave the heat. Unlike the previous extreme heat spell, this one comes packed with humidity.

Nield said the high pressure dome is likely to prevent most storms from forming, meaning the humidity's high dew points will simply make the air muggier and the heat more uncomfortable.

"Our models like to forecast rain several days out. It looks good, but it gets less and less likely as it gets closer to that day." Nield said. In the coming weeks, "we don't see much in the way of significant relief as far as the heat is concerned."

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