For a time this summer, Kansas was a state divided. Not in the political sense, but in terms of weather extremes, from rain and flooding in the northeast, to drought conditions through much of the southern and western portions of the state. And now the extreme heat has settled in statewide and drought conditions are spreading.
“Kansas recorded its fifth hottest July on record, with an average statewide temperature of 84.7 degrees F. (combined day and night). That’s 5.8 degrees higher than usual,” said Mary Knapp, who serves as the state’s climatologist. “July rainfall across the state averaged 1.84 inches, which was just 55 percent of normal.”
The July heat did set a record in south central Kansas, which posted an average temperature of 88.5 degrees F, 7 degrees above average. The previous record of 87.8 degrees was set during the Dust Bowl days of 1934, said Knapp, who runs the Kansas Weather Data Library (www.ksre.ksu.edu/wdl), based at Kansas State University. The library maintains weather records for the state.
With a July average rainfall of 0.77 inch or 22 percent of normal, south central Kansas also recorded the least amount of rainfall compared with other areas of the state.
Temperatures broke 100 degrees in all areas of the state that have weather stations, with many approaching a record number of days above 100 for July.
And where was the temperature the hottest during July? Barber County in south central Kansas earned that distinction, with a reading of 116 degrees F at Medicine Lodge on July 31. The previous record in Medicine Lodge was 114 degrees set in 1985.
On July 26, the national U.S. Drought Monitor ( http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) rated 70 percent of Kansas as “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought,” with 12 percent of the state in the latter category.
The extreme heat and drought are taking a toll on crops and livestock and have prompted numerous disaster declarations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Thirty-eight percent of the state’s corn crop was rated poor to very poor for the week ended July 31, “as the extreme heat during the critical pollination stage has taken its toll in some areas,” according to a Kansas Agricultural Statistics report issued Aug. 1. Twenty-eight percent of the crop was rated fair, and 34 percent rated good to excellent.
Kansas soybeans were rated 15 percent very poor, 24 percent poor, 32 percent fair, 25 percent good, and 4 percent excellent, KAS reported.
Subsoil moisture supplies were 44 percent very short, 29 percent short and 27 percent adequate.
Despite rain in some areas, range and pasture condition declined to 57 percent poor to very poor, 25 percent fair, 17 percent good, and 1 percent excellent. Feed grain supplies were rated 9 percent very short, 17 percent short, 71 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus. Hay and forage supplies declined to 18 percent very short, 30 percent short, 50 percent adequate and 2 percent surplus.
The drought has taken a toll on stock water supplies, which declined to 45 percent short to very short, 54 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus.
“Cattle herds continue to be liquidated as feed availability becomes scarce despite relief from emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program ground,” KAS reported.
“The latest Drought Outlook indicated that drought conditions are expected to improve slightly in the western portions of the state in the coming months,” Knapp said. “The La Niña conditions have faded and the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), which refers to conditions in the Pacific Ocean, is officially in neutral conditions.”
La Niña, Knapp explained, is the phase of the ENSO weather phenomenon characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, as compared with El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. La Niña tends to bring wetter than normal conditions across the Pacific Northwest and drier and warmer than normal conditions across much of the southern tier of the U.S.