Drought Presentations Downright Depressing

Kansas Viewpoint

Meteorologists in agreement that drought will linger; bright spot is 70% chance of rain tonight

Published on: February 6, 2013

Whoo-hoo!! There’s rain in the forecast!

Well, a 70% chance of rain. Of  course, with the drought moving into a third year I’ve come to understand that means a 70% chance that two drops will fall from the sky and maybe land somewhere I see it happen.  But it is deeply cloudy and gray outside. So there is room to hope.

Much less uplifting are the predictions that I’ve heard from three different sources in the last couple of weeks. Those predictions all agree that the scientific evidence points more toward a continuation of the prolonged drought than a recovery from it.

State climatologist Mary Knapp and NOAA Regional Climate Service Director Doug Kluck were both presenters at the No-till on the Plains annual conference last week. They both said that computer models are in agreement that drought will persist and perhaps creep northward and eastward. Long-range forecasts, looking as far out as the end of April, predict less than normal rainfall and higher than normal temperatures.

Doug Kluck, Regional Climate Service Director for NOAA
Doug Kluck, Regional Climate Service Director for NOAA

Knapp showed satellite maps of vegetative growth that have much of Kansas showing green. In that case, green is not a good thing because it means that growing plants are using stored soil moisture, something that it is usually too cold for during a Kansas winter.

This year it definitely was not too cold. The high on Tuesday hit 66 degrees, 20 degrees above the normal 46 for Feb. 5. The high today is forecast to be 60, with highs in the 50s through the rest of week before dropping to mid-40s next week.

Stream flows also continue to be extremely low and lake levels continue to drop. Lakes Michigan and Huron are at record lows.

Kluck said damage to agricultural crops from the summer drought of 2012 are estimated to be between $50 and $80 million and 9.2 million acres across the U.S. were hit by wildfires, the third worst year since records have been kept.

Kluck cautioned against blaming specific events, such as the drought or Hurricane Sandy, on global climate change.

“Climate change is much more wide-range than a specific storm system,” he said. “It creates things such as a longer frost-free season with more and more frost-free days per year over time or earlier spring thaws and later first frosts further to the north. Specific storms tend to driven more by weather patterns.”

Be sure to check your March Kansas Farmer for more on what Knapp and Kluck had to say and learn what WIBW Radio's chief meteorologist Dave Relihan had to say at the Kansas Commodity Classic.