From Drought to Flood: the Tale of Two Springs

By Kolby Hoagland | May 10, 2013

The summer of 2012 was marked as the driest summer in the U.S. in the past 60 years. Many farmers throughout the corn-belt were forced to till their crops back into the soil. Lowering river levels of the Missouri and Mississippi made barge transit difficult, causing many in the commodities market to worry if product would be able to travel our waterways at all. Last summer’s drought was preceded with an abnormally dry spring. This spring, however, has begun with a deluge of precipitation. Below, Chart 1 shows the departure from normal for monthly precipitation for April and May of 2012 and April of 2013. April of this year demonstrates a greater positive departure from normal, particularly in the Midwest, than April of 2012. Except for a band of precipitation across Missouri, April 2012 is visually below average. May of 2012 was particularly dry and led into the devastating aridity of last summer that comprised the profitability of numerous businesses that depend on normal precipitation. Opposed to last spring, 2013 has seen significant flooding thus far. Chart 2 below shows where rivers are currently above flood stage, which is occurring in much of the area that was most strongly affected by the drought last year. The precipitation, or lack thereof, that occurs this month in the Midwest will strongly influence current flooding in the Missouri and Mississippi river basins. The ramification of the substantial disparity in the amount of precipitation between last spring and this spring has reached extremes and will closely be followed by DataPoints throughout the coming weeks.

Precipitation, 2012 vs 2013 Spring 2013 Flooding