By: Eric Schminke - Climate Services Focal Point
As most, if not all, residents of South-Central Kansas are well aware, colossal rainfalls drenched South-Central Kansas in 2008. In fact, the 53.82 inches measured in 2008 at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport broke the record of 50.48 inches set way back in 1951. This staggering rainfall enabled the Air Capital to set a 2nd rainfall record: Greatest 2-year total ever.
As stated in the opening paragraph, Wichita set an all-time annual rainfall record in 2008 when 53.82 inches was measured at Mid- Continent Airport. When the 37.97 inches measured in 2007 are included, this brings the 2-year total of 2007-2008 to a nifty 91.79 inches. This broke the previous 2-year record of 81.35 inches measured from 1950-1951. In 3rd place on the top 2-year rainfall totals list is 1998-1999 with a total of 80.12 inches.With two of the three wettest 2-year totals occurring in the past 10 years, one may be tempted to ask: "Should Kansans be concerned about climate change, especially from a rainfall standpoint?" At this time, the answer is NO. A review of the top 15 wettest years on record states why. (Image below). For a graphical comparison of the 2008 rainfall to 2007, 2006, and to normal (1971-2000), see Image 1. Graph courtesy of River Forecast Center, Tulsa, OK. (Incidentally, the photograph below was taken on September 12th, when Wichita set an all-time calendar day rainfall record of 10.31 inches that no doubt resulted in horrific flooding across Sedgwick County. Graphic produced by Chris Jakub) First, 2007 didn't even gain admission into the Top-10 wettest years on record. (It ranks 16th.) Second, the previous annual record-holder, 1951 with 50.48 inches, occurred 57 years ago. Third, 6 of the 10 wettest years on record occurred prior to 1958. One must also keep in mind, that since the arrival of the 21st century, Wichitans have witnessed two years of considerably below-normal rainfall: 2001 and 2006. In summation, there is no cause for alarm in Kansas with respect to climate change, be it from a temperature or precipitation standpoint.