22 June 2000

Recent Rain Helps, But Not Enough To Stop Drought

Recent storms dropped 1 to 4 inches on parts of drought-stricken Kansas, but the rainfall wasn’t enough to end drought

Much of Kansas is suffering from varying levels of drought,
according to the Kansas Water Office. On the drought scale, extreme is the driest level, followed by severe, moderate, mild,
and then normal. In the second week of June, northeast Kansas digressed from moderate to severe drought conditions.
Northwest Kansas continues to suffer from very dry conditions and is considered in a moderate drought. North central and
southeast Kansas also are experiencing mild drought conditions.

Mary Knapp, state climatologist for Kansas, said drought is a
normal part of the weather cycle in Kansas and this year’s
conditions are no different. The lower precipitation in northeast
Kansas is due in part to a change in the course storms travel.

"This year we’ve seen changes in the circulation pattern, so the
storms have tracked to the south of areas that are currently
suffering from drought," Knapp said. "That is why the south central part of the state is experiencing wetter than normal
while the northeast is dry."

The last few storms have followed this trend, wetting the southern edge of the drought area. The heaviest rains of the June 19
fell along the Kansas River valley, again missing the northern
counties. In northeast Kansas, Tonganoxie received 4 inches, while Holton to the north received 1.82 inches. Horton and
Hiawatha, even further north, received less than that.

"There were substantial and very welcome rains throughout the
northeast, but still not to the degree that we needed," Knapp said.
"What we’d really like to see is that gradient flip-flopped, with 4-
inch rains in the northern tier counties and into Nebraska. If the rains don’t fall on the upper reaches of the watershed, then
it’s not going to help the low stream flows."

How dry is Kansas? Overall, northwest and extreme northeast Kansas are at 60 percent of normal rainfall, while north
central Kansas is at 75 percent of normal for the year. To offset the deficit that’s been occurring since last July, Brown,
Leavenworth and Marshall counties in northeast Kansas would need 17 to 20 inches of rain.

"Ideally, we would like to get enough rain to produce some run-
off," Knapp said. "Otherwise, we get a pattern with sufficient
rains to sustain crop production, allowing crops to grow and
sustain yields, but we don’t have enough to recharge the lower
levels of the soil profile and recharge stream flows."

That’s the current situation in northeast Kansas. The region has
received enough moisture for crop production, particularly with the
recent rains, but not enough to make up for the long-term water
shortage, Knapp said. And the trend is expected to continue for the next 90 days.

"Unfortunately, the long-range forecast for June, July and August
calls for above-normal temperatures and below-normal
precipitation," Knapp said. "While this week’s rain might have
given us a brief respite from the drought conditions, unless it can
be sustained by substantial rainfall every five days, it won’t take
much for us to slide back into more severe drought conditions."