The spring preceding the drought of 1988 compared to Spring 2021

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
It’s been very dry in Chicago this spring. How does this spring’s precipitation compare to spring 1988 which preceded our drought summer?

—Chris V. Wilmington

Dear Chris,
Through April 15 this spring has been much drier, recording just 1.88 inches of precipitation, just half of the 3.75 inches that fell in 1988. The entire March-May 1988 spring period was extremely dry and provided the antecedent conditions for the city’s benchmark hot, drought summer that followed. It logged just 5.42 inches, more than 4 inches below normal, and ranks as the city’s 11th-driest. That summer, Chicago logged a record 47 days 90-degree plus that included a record seven days of triple-digit heat. Nearly half of the Lower 48 experienced extreme drought, resulting in devastating crop losses and a price tag estimated between $80 billion and $120 billion.

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