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Much Rain Needed To Replenish Deficit
By Crystel Bailey
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi may experience long-term plant loss and severe soil moisture depletion if plentiful rains do not come in time to heal the drought damage.
"Parts of Mississippi are experiencing the worst drought since 1954 and 1980. The Delta, northeast Mississippi and some parts south of Jackson have suffered the most from the lack of rainfall," said Charles Wax, head of geosciences at Mississippi State University.
This drought is partly due to 1999's dry summer and winter, but a high pressure ridge over the central part of the country has also kept Mississippi dry for most of the summer of 2000.
"This high pressure ridge has been in place for the past couple of months, and it will most likely not move until the seasons change," Wax said.
Wax said the rain deficit from January 1999 until September 2000 is nearly 22 inches in parts of north Mississippi and 35 inches in parts of south Mississippi. Some areas of the state have received only half the amount of rainfall in 2000 that they normally get by this time of the year.
"Ninety-five percent of the state is in drought trouble. The ground is dry 2 to 3 feet below the surface in some places," Wax said. "We're just heading into the dry part of the year, so there's not a good chance for much rain for the next few weeks."
Larry Oldham, Extension soil specialist at MSU, said if the state does not see a lot of rain soon, there will be an eventual loss of perennial vegetation.
"The soil is a tremendous reservoir for water, but without rain, it is being depleted. We may see many effects of this drought next year unless the dry pattern changes," Oldham said.
Besides depleting water reservoirs, the drought has had an impact on the temperature in Mississippi.
"There have been 21 days of temperatures reaching over 100 degrees in Mississippi this year. In 1980, there were 29 days, and last year there were just two, " Wax said.
These high temperatures resulted partly from a lack of moisture in the air.
"The majority of the sun's energy in Earth's environment is used to evaporate water. When there is no water to evaporate, the sun heats the air directly, which is a contributing reason for the heat wave this summer," Wax said.