Residents of Barton County have endured two summers of drought and extreme heat, along with the rest of much of Kansas.
Great Bend has received 5.57 inches of moisture at the airport from Jan. 1 to July 31. In 2011, the area received 6.01 inches of moisture by this date, according to AccuWeather.com.
For the years 1981-2010, by July 31, the average amount of precipitation was 17.53 inches. For those years, the total annual precipitation was 26.66 inches.
Even National Weather Service meteorologist Mick McGuire was surprised at the low rainfall amounts as Wichita has received about 10 more inches so far this year. “You’re really dry out there,” he said. “The total rainfall is really low.”
This comes as no surprise to area residents, although the state normally is dryer in the west.
Not only is the area dry, it is also very hot. Counting Wednesday, Great Bend has had 31 days at or above 100 degrees.
“We see no major changes anywhere in the foreseeable uture,” said Andy Mussolini, AccuWeather meteorologist. Fortunately, forecasts predict a possibility of thunderstorms over the next few days and a possibility of less than 100 degree temperatures beginning on Saturday.
Mussolini said chances are above normal that the temperature will be above average through October. Precipitation is forecast to be at or just below normal. They see no major pattern changes.
Whether the current weather is global warming or normal variation is a subject of debate. However, Mussolini said, “In large part, many records are still held from the Dust Bowl era. During the Dust Bowl, there were years and years of drought. They could still turn out hotter.”
He went on to say this could be once in a 100 year event. “Let the record speak for itself,” he said.
“It could also be an indicator of what’s to come,” Mussolini said. “Nothing is set in stone. We will certainly be researching as to what it means to the future.”
The meteorologist gave a technical explanation of the weather. “The current state is a weak El Nino,” said “The past winter, La Nina contributed not only to the mild winter and lack of snow. We think the lack of snow is a big contributor to the drought.”
La Nina is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, unlike El Niño which is associated with warmer than normal water. They both affect the weather throughout the world.