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07/01/12 The weather in Arkansas remains bleak–Heat and more Heat

The heat wave continues in Arkansas

The heat wave continues in Arkansas

Well as much as I would like to say “it’s all OK here in the State of Arkansas”, I really can’t.  This has to be the worst heat wave since the mid 1980’s when the state went almost 60 days with no measurable rainfall.  As you can see from the forecast page above, for the next ten days Arkansas temperatures will stay well over 95 degrees and on many days they will climb over 100 degrees.

If this continues for much longer, then you can safely assume a few things:

  1. Within 20 more days you will start to see large numbers of trees going into stress.  When this occurs the leaves will turn brown and stay on the tree until late fall.  However it also means that any hope of a good photographic fall will be ruined.
  2. Most if not all of the major trunk streams in the State are going to dry up totally, this includes the upper Buffalo River near Boxley, Piney Creek near Russellville, the Cossatot River in the Southwest corner of Arknasas, and the Mulberry River near Fort  Smith.  The smaller streams like Richland Creek have already dried up and unless the state gets some significant rainfall in July and August, I don’t think they will have anything in the fall either.
  3. The fire hazard in the state is at highest level.  On my last trip to the Buffalo River in early June, I was already seeing sights along the roads that let me know we were in for a long hot one.  The roadside wildflowers were gone and the grasses that grow along the road side were all brown.  Now almost a month later, all of these areas are going to be at a high risk if someone throws out a cigarette.
  4. Deer, Elk, and other large wildlife will stay in the deep glens and valleys of the state and not venture out in to the flats due to the excessive heat.  So wildlife photography will be much harder than stopping along the road side and taking out your camera.
  5. Nighttime photography is pretty much a bust right now.  The excess heat lingers on into the night so that even past 11:00 pm you are still shooting in temperatures over 85 degrees.  This much heat just means that your sensor will heat up fast and you will start to see excess noise.  The nighttime skies also are very hazy and don’t really lend themselves to clear star shots.

I don’t know when any relief is headed to Arkansas.  What we need is a tropical depression to come into the Gulf and head up towards Arkansas.  It seems like nothing is going to come from the west as most of the west seems to be at a higher to highest warning for fires also.  Of course Colorado is having some of the worst wildfires in the states history.   For now, I would recommend no campfires as even a flying ember might be enough to start a major blaze in the Arkansas Wilderness.

Most of the lakes in the state are down below normal pool levels, but have not reached a critical level yet.  Arkansas in 2012 had a very mild winter, with very little to no snowfall.  We had a very dry and warm February that was followed by a warm but wet March.  After March, we stopped having major rain events which is months early.  Because of the this all of my favorite creeks dried up much earlier than usual.

Keep your fingers crossed that things get better as we move on to July and August, but as these months tend to be the hottest in normal years, I don’t have my hopes up.



  1. Jo Ann Crisp says:

    This is my second summer living in Polk County and I am very concerned about our wildlife with such heat and drought. I continue filling the bird feeder and have a little water pool, but it’s so dry here that while I was watering the strawberry plants a couple nights ago, a toad came out from under the straw mulch and moved right into the hose shower as I held it, and sat quietly there until I moved on to the next plants. I have stopped watering most things and try to conserve, handwatering my four grapevines and such things that make more sense to try to save. Last year we had 40 bear sightings in town because the woods were so dry and the food scarce. Another year of this will surely mean wildlife suffering. Arkansas is a wonderful state, but more than ever I can appreciate what a snowy winter and and spring showers can do for the land.

  2. Jo Ann Crisp says:

    I got off on the drought concerns and forgot to say that there may also be some good photo opportunities when wildlife comes in to find water and risks being closer to you than normal. It would be better to have the great fall scenery after a normal year, though. Your work is very good, very beautiful shots.

    • JoAnn:

      Thanks for the comments, I agree that if things don’t get better soon, most of the wild life will be close to water and photography will be interesting. Yesterday and today we
      actually had some clouds, but I am seeing more and more signs of stress around Little Rock.

      Take care