Drought Lessening Across Southwest Kansas


The latest Drought Monitor issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on August 19th indicates improving soil moisture for the severely dry portions of southwest Kansas.  During roughly a five-day period from August 14 to18th, widespread rainfall amounts varying from 1 to 5 inches fell across many of the impacted locations.  A few reports included 4.53 inches 8 miles north-northeast of Syracuse, 3.11 inches 14 miles south-southwest of Leoti and just under 2.5 inches in the Garden City area.  

However, large precipitation deficits, including multiyear, remain.  Specifically, for the period of October 1, 2007 through July 31st, 2008, Big Bow 4 WSW reported 5.91 inches of rainfall, which is 51 percent of normal (11.50 inches).  Other selected locations during this time include: Elkhart having only 3.49 inches of rainfall, 24 percent of the normal of 14.47 inches, Hugoton 4.97 inches, 34 percent of normal (14.72 inches); Lakin 4.67 inches, 33 percent of normal (14.27 inches); Richfield 10 WSW 3.64 inches, 29 percent of normal (12.59 inches); Syracuse 4.79 inches, 37 percent of normal (13.02 inches) and Ulysses 3NE 4.32 inches, 33 percent of normal (13.12 inches).    

For the Dodge City airport, there has been 12.63 inches of rainfall for the interval of October 1 to July 31st, which is 70 percent of the normal amount of 17.92 inches during this period.  However, since June 2001 (86 months) through last July the rainfall deficit is 24.91 inches, 85 percent of normal.  This multiyear deficit is greater than the average annual amount of precipitation for Dodge City.

Esimated precipitation is available through the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service web page:

Click on the thumbnail below for:

Esimated precipitation since October 1, 2008

Estimated departure from normal since October 1, 2008

Estimated percent of normal since October 1, 2008


 The global circulation particularly during July favored anomalous high pressure ridging across the Rockies and Plains promoting hot and dry weather across southwest Kansas.  Since August 1st, however, some fundamental changes shifting our weather toward cooler and wetter have been occurring.  Indications are the jet stream pattern this upcoming fall and winter may lead to improved precipitation opportunities for southwest Kansas, further lessening the drought.      

Hydrologic Impacts…

The Arkansas River west of Garden City does have streamflow.  Still, most stream and creek beds for the locations impacted by this drought have no water flowing.        

Fire Danger Impacts…

Recent beneficial rainfall has substantially reduced the risk of rangeland fire.  In fact, on August 20th per the United States Forecast Services’ Wildland Fire Assessment System, southwest Kansas had a fire danger rating of “low”.  There is a high probablility that the fire danager will not return until the vegetation cures due to frosts and freezes which should not occur until later this fall.

Agricultural Impacts…

In addition to the recent rainfall, much cooler temperatures the last few weeks have significantly improved the outlook for substantial fall harvested crop yields.  These include milo and sunflower.   


Scattered thunderstorms are expected through this weekend for the drought impacted areas.  Forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) through week-2 tilt the odds toward near normal temperatures and below normal rainfall.  These same official forecasts show no probability shifts of temperatures and precipitation through September.  Consistent with the Overview section, the official U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook through this November suggests moisture conditions to improve.   



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