Dead fish and algae float near the edge of a pond in Wabaunsee County
FISH KILL: Wabaunsee County rancher Joe Carpenter shared this photo of a fish kill in what he described as “one of our best ponds.”

Drought keeps its grip on Kansas despite summer thunderstorms

Scattered thunderstorms bring relief to some of the state, but much of Kansas remains dry.

The trouble with the summer thunderstorm pattern in Kansas is that it provides spotty rains that drench some areas while totally missing others.

This year, like many other drought years, has seen the driest areas of the state growing drier, while those that have had an excess of rain continue to receive more.

Looking at the July 5 U.S. Drought Monitor Map, central and east-central Kansas continue to be a finger for the worst drought in the state.

National Weather Service records show Wichita at 9.91 inches of rain, about 2.5 inches below normal for the season. But move a little to the north in Salina and the total rainfall for the same period is only 5.5 inches, about 4.13 inches below normal.

Many ranchers in the Flint Hills are hauling water to cattle because ponds are too low. In other areas, even though ponds still have water, algae blooms have cut oxygen supplies, and the result is a kill-off of fish.

Wabaunsee County rancher Joe Carpenter says his best remaining pond has water about 20 feet deep but has turned stagnant. This has resulted in not enough oxygen for the population of bass, which have gone belly-up along the dry, cracked edges of the pond.

On July 6, Gov. Jeff Colyer updated the Drought Declaration for Kansas counties with an executive order showing all 105 counties in either an emergency, warning or watch status, with almost half the state in drought emergency.

 

In a press release announcing the order, Colyer said, "Kansans need to know that no matter where you live in the state, the drought is not over. I’ve heard many concerns from producers and have seen the conditions first hand."

During a drought emergency, counties are eligible for emergency use of water from some state fishing lakes or federal reservoirs. Entities needing to exercise emergency rights need to contact the Kansas Water Office for details on how that contingency works.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center doesn’t generate optimism for the near future, with the 30-day forecast predicting temperatures to stay above normal with an equal chance of below- or above-normal rainfall for the month of July.

Longer range, the next 90 days is forecast to be well above normal for temperatures, again with uncertain rainfall.

Meanwhile, one condition that often impacts winter weather in Kansas, the El Nino Southern Oscillation, is in El Niño neutral and forecast to stay that way through the summer with a 65% chance of a developing El Niño over the winter of 2018-2019.

During a strong El Niño, Kansas tends to get above average moisture from storm systems that are forced further to the south by changes in the jet stream. In a weak or moderate El Niño, the impact on the jet stream is less and the chances of a wetter winter diminish.

Other factors, including water temperatures in the Pacific off the west coast of the U.S., can also have a major impact on how the storms that tend to move west to east across the country are steered.

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