Recent years’ extreme weather conditions adding up for pleasant summer

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

— The definition of “good weather” always has been a matter of perspective.

The definition of “normal weather” is becoming more difficult to pin down.

Here’s one thing that’s certain: Above average spring rains and the long-term forecast are good news for local gardeners, farmers and anyone who enjoys being outdoors.

But first, a quick recap:

In 2012, a warm March was followed by a normal April and then a drought that dried fields to the color of overdone toast.

This year, winter attempted a hostile takeover of spring but was neatly foiled in the final days of May. Snow in April was a nuisance, as were flood conditions in May. At the same time, those flood conditions mean the ground, still parched from last year, was able to drink its fill.

In April, Janesville had 9.5 inches of precipitation, more than 6 inches above the average of 3.3, according to The Gazette’s weather data, which date to 1948.

In May, Janesville had 3.3 inches, just under the monthly average of 3.5 inches. And through June 17, the city has had 1.1 inches so far.

By June 17 of last year, the city had only had 0.4 inches of rain, and farmers and gardeners already were beginning to talk about a drought.

Not any more.

“The stream flow measures from the U.S.G.S. (U.S. Geological Survey) are looking good all over the state,” said Bill Bland, UW-Madison assistant professor of soil science. “They are at normal levels or above normal levels, and that is an indication that the drought is gone for good.”

In fact, a significant portion of the central part of the state has had too much rain, putting many farmers behind in their planting, Bland said.

Ed Townsend, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sullivan, said both the one-month and three-month forecasts call for rain amounts that are normal or close to normal. In other words, no extremes.

For Scott Skelly of Skelly’s Farm Market, it wasn’t last year’s drought that hurt them so much as the 80-degree days in March.

Strawberries are perennial plants. The weather in March 2012 got them off to a good—but far too early—start.

April frosts were hard on the berries and the only thing that kept the tender plants alive was a gentle misting from the farm’s irrigation system.

Still, the spring was hard on the plants, and many of the blossoms froze.

“This year, it’s certainly been a slow start to the growing season, but we have a nice crop of berries, with very good quality,” Skelly said.

Last updated: 7:51 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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