Drought Continues to Take Toll on Plains

Kansas Viewpoint

Latest drought monitor shows most of Plains still in moderate to exceptional drought

Published on: October 21, 2012

The drought continues in the High Plains, with Nebraska hardest hit and Kansas improving somewhat.

Three-fourths of Nebraska remains in exceptional drought, the worst category on the U.S. Drought Monitor. About 40% of Kansas is in that category. Kansas, Nebraksa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado are in drought from moderate to exceptional, mostly in the severe to exceptional categories.

The multi-state, severe dust storm of last Thursday was a reminder of how vulnerable our soils are when the rains don’t come and the winds pick up.

What both Kansas and Nebraska need is enough rain to get a winter wheat crop up and growing to hold the soil. The weather is just not cooperating. Kansas has had enough rain to get some of the wheat up, but there are thousands of acres planted that are still struggling to emerge.

There has been no good news on the long-range forecast front. In mid-summer, there were strong expectations that an El Nino would emerge this fall and winter. Hopes for that pattern, which is favorable to winter moisture in the Plains, are fading.

There is still an El Nino watch, but the numbers remain stubbornly on the “neutral” side and the odds now favor a continued neutral state.

It’s possible that will be better than a return to La Nina, which supports warmer and drier than normal conditions in the Plains and had been the condition for the last two years of devastating drought in Kansas.

Recent rains have been spotty rather  than widespread and the storms that produced them seemed prone to short-lived downpours rather than hours of the slow, steady rain that we need to break the current drought cycle.