Drought expected to continue through summer
By ANGIE HAFLICH
While there is some relief on the horizon in terms of slight moisture in southwest Kansas, long-term forecasts indicate that above-average temperatures and below normal precipitation over the summer months will perpetuate the drought.
Mary Knapp, state climatologist, said the next six-to-14-day outlook indicates wetter than normal conditions, but it isn't clear how much of that will impact southwest Kansas. A trace of rain was recorded locally Tuesday afternoon.
"If we look at the outlook for June, it's calling for below normal precipitation and above-average temperatures and the same holds true through the summer, The June, July, August outlook is for both drier and warmer-than-average temperatures," Knapp said.
Larry Ruthi, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Dodge City, said June isn't looking very promising in terms of moisture.
"Unfortunately, after the first part of June, I'm seeing a ridge building over the central plans that may keep us from being terribly wet," he said.
There are some chances for moisture in the area this week, but Knapp said while any moisture helps, it only delays the inevitable.
"Southwest Kansas is dry enough, you'd take anything you can get, but even if you are wetter than normal for the next two weeks, that's just going to be a pause in the downward slide, rather than actual, material improvement," she said, adding that in order to recover from the moisture deficit, temperatures would have to remain near normal and moisture would have to remain steady for the next 12 months.
Southwest Kansas is a D4 in terms of drought rating.
"That is exceptional drought, which is as bad as it gets," Knapp said.
She said warmer-than-average temperatures, winds and blowing dust are all indications of an exceptional drought.
"What we were seeing out in western Kansas was that you were getting the big temperature swings, because if you look at April data, you guys hit 100 degrees in April in the southwest part of the state. You also hit 22 degrees, which is very indicative of those extremely dry conditions that you've got," she said.
In the eastern panhandle of Finney County, Knapp said the rating is D3, or extreme drought, but that there are indications that the D4 drought line will push east to include that part of Finney County, as well as Clark and Meade counties.
Knapp said year-to-date rainfall totals haven't amounted to much so far this year.
"You're 1.56 inches for the year-to-date and May has been your wettest month with 0.068. This was from the Garden City Regional Airport. The experiment station has done a little bit better. They're 3.77 inches for the year. They had 0.06 in January, 1.54 in February, 0.013 in March, 0.028 in April and 1.22 in May," she said. "The experiment station should have 7.08 inches for the year ending in May, so it's just about half of what it should be ... Last year, you had 1.91 inches in March alone and 3.10 in April."
The experiment station is Kansas State University's Southwest Research-Extension Center.
Knapp said another difference between last year and this year is lower temperatures, making the lesser moisture slightly more effective, but increased humidity levels, which Knapp said have been sporadic, haven't been enough to saturate the atmosphere.
"That's why you might see these rain shafts in the distance and they'll get maybe 100 feet off the ground and then it's all gone," she said. "I think the problem is your atmosphere is so dry that it's simply evaporating before it hits the ground."
Ruthi said it appears that dry conditions will continue for southwest Kansas over the summer months.
"The dividing line (for moisture) is pretty uncertain, but I'm anticipating it being somewhere around Dodge City or further east," he said, adding that moister conditions are anticipated for northeast and north-central Kansas.
The National Weather Service in Dodge City forecasts today as partly sunny with a high around 90 degrees, with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly between 1 and 10 p.m. Thursday will be sunny, with a high of 86. Thursday night's forecast is for partly cloudy skies with a low of 57. Friday's high will be near 86, and Friday night, the chance for rain is 20 percent with a low of around 56.