By Jim Misunas
Drought conditions warranted one-category improvements in central and southern Kansas, after 2- to 5-inch rains (locally heavier), especially in places which received two to three times their normal rainfall for the past week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Eric Schminke and Andy Kleinsasser, National Weather Service meteorologists in Wichita, compiled the summary about improving Kansas drought conditions.
Portions of Barton, Rush and Pawnee counties improved from extreme to severe drought conditions in the past week. Most locations received 8 to 10 inches of rain in June.
As of July 1, portions of D3 (extreme) drought existed in the western edge of Kansas along the Colorado line from Nebraska to Oklahoma, and parts of southern and western Kansas remained in D2 (severe) drought.
Soil moisture has improved region-wide, ranging from 12 to 17 inches across the eastern half of Kansas as of June 25, an improvement of 2 to 4 inches since May.
Most rivers and streams across central south-central and southeast Kansas are running near to above-normal. Most reservoirs are 90 to 100 percent full although Wilson Lake Reservoir in Russell County is 78 to 89 percent full.
Schminke reports that very dry weather conditions from winter until mid-to-late-May had folks across the region fearing the worst that the off-and-on long-term drought that has plagued the region since 2011 was reintensifying.
However, those fears were thankfully squelched as periodic bouts of widespread thunderstorms and associated heavy rainfall have affected the region since roughly mid to late May.
Precipitation deficits that had been steadily growing since winter have now been steadily shrinking. Unfortunately for many winter wheat farmers the beneficial rainfall came too late to make much of a difference for their crop especially over south-central Kansas.
Despite the widespread above normal rainfall long-term drought conditions do still persist especially over portions of western central and far southern Kansas due to precipitation deficits since December 2013 ranging from 50 to 70 percent of normal. This is likely manifested primarily in continued below normal ground water and deep soil moisture supplies.
Drought intensity definitions. There are five levels of intensity depicted on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
• D0 — Abnormally dry. Going into drought — causes short-term dryness slowing planting growth of crops or pastures and above average fire risk. Coming out of drought — there are some lingering water deficits. Pastures and crops are not fully recovered.
• D1 — Moderate drought. Some damage to crops or pastures, high fire risk exists, streams reservoirs or wells are low. Some water shortages develop or are imminent and voluntary use restrictions are requested.
• D2 — Severe drought. Crop or pasture losses are likely, fire risk is very high. Water shortages are common and water restrictions may be imposed.
• D3 — Extreme drought. Major crop and pasture losses. Fire danger is extreme and widespread water shortages and restrictions are possible.
• D4 — Exceptional drought. Exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses. Exceptional fire danger exists. Shortages of water in reservoirs streams and wells occur, creating water emergencies.
The U.S Drought Monitor is a weekly collaborative effort between a number of federal agencies including NOAA/NWS U.S. Department of agriculture state and regional center climatologists and the National Drought Mitigation Center. Information has been compiled from NWS and FAA observation sites the USGS and the Kansas Water Office.