Climatic Change

, Volume 44, Issue 1–2, pp 173–195 | Cite as

Rainfall in the Garden of the United States Great Plains, 1870–1889

  • Cary J. Mock


The recent accumulation of all published precipitation records from 1870–1889 in the central and northern Great Plains of the United States provides a renewed potential in analyzing climatic reality during early settlement, corresponding to a time when some written histories documented that the ‘Rain followed the Plow’. Growing season precipitation in the central and northern Great Plains from 1870–1889 were examined relative to modern climatic normals (1961–1990). Growing season totals mostly exhibit little changes in precipitation in the region as compared to today. Some wetter springs and summers occurred in the Dakotas during the late 1870s and early 1880s, subsequent to the drier early-mid 1870s and corresponding to the Great Dakota Boom. Wetter summers occurred over the central Plains in the mid-1880s, corresponding to increased migration in Nebraska and Kansas. Drier summers occurred during the early 1870s and inactive settlement in the early 1880s. Although increased rainfall may have been conducive for early settlement, in general the ‘Rain did not follow the Plow’, with extreme seasonal and monthly heavy precipitation events at the subregional scale perhaps playing important roles on settlers' climatic perceptions. The results of this study provide a framework in order to conduct historical climate impact analyses as well as information that can be applied towards understanding spatial climatic variations further back into time.


Heavy Precipitation Early Settlement Central Plain Climatic Normal Northern Great Plain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cary J. Mock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of OregonEugeneU.S.A.

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