Heavy Rains Deal Fatal Blow to Drought
(Updated August 16, 2013)
**(Note: This page will only be updated during times of drought)**
Well above normal to record high precipitation the second half of July through the first half of August has dealt a fatal blow to the long-term drought across the eastern one-half to two-thirds of Kansas. Soil moisture has greatly improved, which in turn affects crops and other agricultural aspects. Additionally, reservoir and river levels along with deep soil moisture deficits have greatly improved, with most reservoirs now near normal and most rivers at or above normal. Check out this animation from the US Drought Monitor depicting the disappering drought conditions over the past several weeks and months.
Is the drought finally over? As evidenced by the official U.S. Drought Monitor below, the answer is a resounding "YES" for generally the eastern half of the state. Unfortunately though, the western half to one-third of the state still remains in extreme to exceptional drought, as rainfall has not been nearly as plentiful.
Click HERE for an excellent drought report updated weekly by the Kansas Water Office.
| Current KS Drought Conditions
Kansas Historic Long-Term Precipitation Deficits
How do Kansas precipitation deficits the past couple years compare to historical precipitation deficits since the late 1800s? The below table illustrates Kansas' 10-driest August-July periods since 1895. Annual rainfall totals across the nine Kansas climate divisions are averaged to come up with the totals in the below table. Periods ending in 2013 are red, while periods ending in 2012 are blue. The data was obtained from the National Climatic Data Center's (NCDC) time series plots.
Notice the two and three year precipitation deficts ending in 2012 and 2013 rival some of the historically very dry years of the 1930s and '50s. However, notice the relatively wet 5-year periods from 2007-12 and 2008-13. Contrast this to the extremely dry years of the '30s and '50s.
Historical KS Precipitation Deficits Since 1895...Ending July 2013
(Periods Ending in 2013 Red/2012 Blue)
1-Year (inches) Aug-Jul
2-Year (inches) Aug-Jul
3-Year (inches) Aug-Jul
5-Year (inches) Aug-Jul
||-21.15 1953-56||-31.96 1951-56
||-20.12 1952-55||-28.54 1952-57
||-18.29 1951-54||-28.05 1932-37
|-8.60 1952-53||-13.97 1954-56
||-16.92 1932-35||-26.68 1935-40
||-15.55 1937-40||-22.64 1931-36
||-15.26 1933-36||-20.07 1929-34
||-14.61 1931-34||-19.94 1933-38
||-13.38 1915-18||-19.91 1934-39
||-12.99 1954-57||-18.27 1909-14
||-12.70 1934-37||-17.59 1930-35
|-2.32 2012-13 (39th Driest)
||-6.17 2011-13 (25th Driest)||-11.57 2010-13 (15th Driest)||+0.33 2008-13 (55th Driest)
|-3.88 2011-12 (28th Driest)
||-9.35 2010-12 (11th Driest)||-3.67 2009-12 (38th Driest)||+5.39 2007-12 (70th Driest)
Past Precipitation Totals and Departures From Normal
(30-Day, 60-Day, 90-Day, 6-Month, 1-Year, 2-Year)
The below images (courtesy of the High Plains Regional Climate Center) represent precipitation totals, departures from normal and percent of normal the past 30, 60, 90 days, the past 6-months, and the past one and two years across Kansas. The unit of measure is inches. Precipitation includes rainfall, melted-down snow, sleet, freezing, hail, etc. For the departures and percent of normal maps, oranges and reds indicate drier conditions, while blues and purples indicate wetter conditions. Notice the very wet conditions over the past 3 to 6 months mainly over the eastern half of Kansas. Click each image to enlarge.
|Precipitation Past 30-Days
||30-Day Departure From Normal
||30-Day % of Normal|
|Precipitation Past 60 Days||60-Day Departure From Normal||60-Day % of Normal
|Precipitation Past 90 Days
||90-Day Departure From Normal
||90-Day % of Normal|
|Precipitation Past 6-Months||6-Month Departure From Normal
||6-Month % of Normal|
|Precipitation Past 1-Year
||1-Year Departure From Normal
||1-Year % of Normal|
|Precipitation Past 2-Years||2-Year Departure From Normal||2-Year % of Normal|
|Precipitation Past 3-Years||3-Year Departure From Normal||3-Year % of Normal|
Comparing Past Droughts
The below graph depicts historical drought severity across Kansas since 1895, using the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Widely considered to be an excellent indicator of long-term drought severity, the PDSI uses a comprehensive blend of precipitation, temperature and soil moisture to determine long-term drought severity. Negative values indicate drought conditions, while positive values indicate wet and drought-free conditions. Long-term drought before February was certainly rivaling the infamously dry years of the 1930s and 1950s, but beneficial precipitation since February has greatly eased (and as of late, erased) long-term drought conditions. Image courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).
|Kansas Historical Droughts (click to enlarge)|
|Kansas Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) values since 1895. Values are averaged across the entire state of Kansas. Negative (yellow) values denote drought, positive (green) values denote wet or drought-free conditions. Notice the severe and long-term droughts of the 1930s and '50s.
Below is another way of graphically depicting severe droughts across the nation since 1900. The images are courtesy of the Western Regional Climate Center. Widely considered to be an excellent indicator of long-term drought severity, the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) is highlighted in each image below. The PDSI uses a comprehensive blend of precipitation, temperature and soil moisture to determine long-term drought severity. Red indicates very dry conditions, blue indicates very wet conditions. Once again, notice the severe and expansive droughts of the 1930s and '50s. Click each image to enlarge.
The following are some Kansas statewide averaged agricultrual statistics compiled by the USDA as of late July 2013. For additional information on agricultural impacts, please visit the US Department of Agriculture or the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
Corn Condition: 8% very poor, 20% poor, 39% fair, 29% good, 4% excellent
Sorghum Condition: 6% very poor, 15% poor, 42% fair, 35% good, 2% excellent
Soybean Condition: 2% very poor, 11% poor, 42% fair, 42% good, 3% excellent
Cotton Condition: 0% very poor, 8% poor, 52% fair, 33% good, 7% excellent
Sunflower Condition: 2% very poor, 12% poor, 41% fair, 40% good, 5% excellent
Topsoil Moisture: 22% very short, 34% short, 38% adequate, 6% surplus.
Subsoil Moisture: 29% very short, 37% short, 32% adequate, 2% surplus.
Range and Pasture Condition: 29% very poor, 24% poor, 29% fair, 17% good, 1% excellent.
Stock Water Supplies: 17% very short, 22% short, 59% adequate, 2% surplus.
|Crop Moisture Index (Most Useful Spring-Fall)
||Soil Moisture and Anomalies
(Most Useful Spring-Fall)
|KS Vegetation Condition (Current) - Most Useful Spring-Summer-Fall
||KS Vegetation Condition (1-Year Ago) - Most Useful Spring-Summer-Fall
|Kansas vegetation health July 16-29, 2013. Green colors indicate healthy vegetation, while orange and red colors indicate unhealthy vegetation. Notice how much healthier vegetation was this year compared to last year at this time (right image). For more information, please visit the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing (KARS) website.||Kansas vegetation health July 17-30, 2012, roughly one year ago. Green colors indicate healthy vegetation, while orange and red colors indicate unhealthy vegetation. Noticed how much more unhealthy 2012 vegetation was from current vegetation (left image). For more information, please visit the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing (KARS) website.|
Well above normal precipitation since February, and especially since mid-July, has allowed many rivers and streams to rise to near and above normal stream flows, with a handful even rising above flood stage recently. Additionally, most reservoirs across the region have seen significant rises, with many now near normal levels. Cheney reservoir, one of the chief water sources for the Wichita Area, rose a whopping 9 feet from February through early August, and both El Dorado and Marion reservoirs rose 5-6 feet. Needless to say, these major reservoir rises have aided water recreation activities.
|Federal Reservoir Levels|
|Federal Reservoir levels across Kansas as of August 14th. Notice the near normal reservoir levels over generally the eastern half of Kansas, with levels dropping off across western Kansas.|Historical Kansas Hydrological Droughts
Arkansas River Streamflow near Wichita Since 2008
Kansas Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) values since 1895. PHDI reflects long-term drought severity associated with streamflow, reservoir and groundwater levels. Negative values denote drought, positive values denote wet or drought-free conditions. Notice the long-term hydrological droughts of the 1930s and '50s. Image courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).
Arkansas River (near Wichita) streamflow since 2008. The solid black line is actual streamflow; blue denotes above normal flow, green near normal, and yellow/maroon below normal. The bottom extent of the maroon curve is record low flow. Notice the record to near record low flow during portions of 2011, 2012, and early 2013, with stream flow dramatically improving through 2013.
The below long-range outlook images are courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center (CPC).
Other Useful Resources
Please contact us with any questions or comments regarding this drought page, or about drought or climate in general.
Eric Schminke or Andy Kleinsasser
Drought Focal Points
National Weather Service
2142 S. Tyler Rd
Wichita, KS 67209