By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
When Is a Drought Over?
Placeholder Image

Probably nobody in the Golden Belt is under any illusion the drought is over. As we are well past the halfway point in wheat harvest, yields are all over the map. They tend to be much worse going west from Great Bend and fair to very good as you proceed east. Reports indicate yields less than 20 bushels per acre in western Barton County to some 60 bushel per acre fields in the east. These yields certainly provide a dramatic representation of where the snow and rains fell since the first of the year. Based on 60 bushel wheat, it might be reasonable to assume the drought is almost over in the eastern part of the county. So what does the official drought monitor say? First what are the levels of drought and then when is drought over?
* No Drought
* Abnormally Dry
* Drought – Moderate
* Drought – Severe
* Drought – Extreme
* Drought – Exceptional
Except for the eastern sliver, Barton County is in the Extreme category, as is most of Stafford and counties to the immediate west. Most of the western quarter of the state is in the Exceptional category. Conditions improve markedly west of U.S. 281. So even though, summer crops look better than last year and we have received more rainfall in many areas the region is still in a drought. In fact the county average through this past Friday is about 2.1 inches under the long-term average of 14.7 inches through June while last year at this time the average was over 7 inches below the long-term average.
First, there are many definitions of drought. The simplest is a period of abnormally dry weather persisting long enough to cause environmental and/or economic problems. A more scientific definition involves precipitation, humidity, evaporation, transpiration, temperature, and soil moisture recharge. Some definitions simply say a drought is when precipitation is less than 75% of the average. So how does this year compare drought wise to the last two years?
* Precipitation is about 85% of the average, a marked improvement.
* Humidities overall are higher this year and this puts less stress on plants and decreases evapotranspiration. Even with the extreme temperatures this past week, higher humidities while miserable for us did help plants a bit.
* Evaporation and transpiration with the higher humidities and until recently, lower temperatures, were lower due to lower demand. That and the later planting put plants behind developmentally.
* Excepting the past ten days or so, overall temperatures have been much cooler and even cold since the first of the year. This lessens water losses from evaporation.
* So with improvements in all the above factors, why are we still in the Drought-Extreme category? Soil moisture recharge has been pretty much nonexistent for our area and west of here.
Until the other factors, especially precipitation, allow for soil moisture recharge, the area will remain in drought and it will take an extended period of well-above normal precipitation. Several large rainfall events of several or more inches won’t solve the problem as much of it can runoff and/or evaporate. Hopefully, the long-range models are correct in predicting this to occur over the next year.