Little Moisture In Big Snow As Drought Continues But With Optimistic ‘Neutral’ Outlook

“The weather outlook for this summer is ‘neutral,’ and that’s good.”

While many question the logic of appeal in that statement, their disgust rises with the additional comments:

“Despite record snowfalls in many locales during the first week of February, water content is really quite low. Much of the state of Kansas is still under drought conditions.”

Those three points were the “meat” of a highly anticipated and closely ‘monitored’ presentation kicking off the first 2014 580 WIBW-hosted Farm Profit Conference
Thursday evening at Lyndon.

Mary Knapp, Kansas State University climatologist, who has been a regular commentator at Farm Profit Conferences for at least a half-dozen years, was introduced by longtime 580 Farm Director Kelly Lenz, coordinator and moderator of the program.

Nearly 150 farm people from eight counties were in attendance braving subzero temperatures and snowdrifts for the complimentary supper and educational and entertaining program, that had to be rescheduled from two days earlier when weather conditions were such one couldn’t see to get out of the driveway, let alone into the Osage County town seat.

In her opening remarks, Knapp clarified the difference in a weatherman and a climatologist.  “A weather forecaster is often also a meteorologist who is a specialist studying processes in the earth’s atmosphere that cause weather conditions. They apply the application of science and technology to predict the state of the atmosphere for a given location.

“Climatologists study climate change, climate variability, and the effects of climate on the biosphere, basing longtime weather outlooks on history.

“It sometimes gets blurry, the difference, but I’m a climatologist,” Knapp explained.

In justifying her ‘neutral’ summer outlook, Knapp elucidated: “We have been having hotter and drier conditions than normal during the past several summers, so neutral is positive. It could be wetter and cooler.”

With an in-depth colored slide presentation, Knap informed the farm crowd of what the weather has been, is and “might be” during the next several weeks and months.

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Mary Knapp, Kansas State University climatologist, discussed the 2014 Kansas weather outlook during the first 2014 580 WIBW-hosted Farm Profit Conference
Thursday evening at Lyndon.

Statewide temperatures last year were about normal, with the western one-third of Kansas warmer than normal.

But, precipitation was again especially low in the western one-fifth of the state, ranging from 10 to 14 inches total in the far western tear of counties.

“However, eastern Kansas had precipitation averaging from 32 inches to 61 inches, in far southeast Kansas,” Knapp showed.

Snowfall in 2013 was as high as 56 inches in northwest Kansas, but only about six to 21 inches in both the southwest and southeast corners of the state.

“Thus, the current U.S. Drought Monitor released February 6, 2014, shows extreme drought conditions remain in the far northwest and far southwest corners of the state,” Knapp emphasized.

“While, the entire western one-third of the state is in severe drought or worse, two tiers of counties down the center of the sunflower state are experiencing moderate drought conditions. Even eastern Kansas is abnormally dry, according to United Department of Agriculture charts,” Knapp claimed.

The worst news is that conditions don’t look to improve during the spring in the western one-third of Kansas.

“The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook indicates that the drought will persist or intensify in that part of the state, but fortunately there is no drought predicted for the eastern one-half of Kansas through April 30,” Knapp showed.

Eastern Kansas obviously, and officially, received the most snow on February 5, 2014. Amounts from south central Kansas to the northeast Kansas corner ranged from 12 to more than 15 inches. Extreme southeast Kansas and western Kansas received only two to four inches of snow.

“The real story is the water content, and it’s not that great, really,” Knapp admitted.

Precipitation from the snow in northeast Kansas amounted to no more than an inch of water, while southeast and central Kansas precipitation from last Tuesday’s snow amounted to only a quarter to a half of an inch of water.

“But, we’ll take it,” Knapp emphasized.

Nationwide for the next two weeks, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts show a 35 percent probability of above average moisture in Kansas and most of the northern two-thirds of the country.

There is 70 percent probability of above normal precipitation in the extreme northeast part of the United States.

Southwestern corner of the country is expected to have normal or well below normal precipitation in the next couple of weeks.

Likewise, temperatures are expected to be well below normal for the next two weeks throughout most of the country, based on recent record, or nearly so, subzero temperatures, most everywhere.

Looking to spring temperature and precipitation outlooks, Knapp said, “Temperatures will average below normal, but there is equal chances for precipitation to be above, or below normal, according to the three-month outlook precipitation probability map from NOAA.”

Into the technical side of her presentation, Knapp related, “There is a transition in the Southern Oscillation, known as ENSO, but an El Nino,  irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region, characterized by unusually warm temperatures, hasn’t developed.

“So, neutral conditions will continue for the winter,” Knapp predicted

The Artic Oscillation, or AO, is leaning negative, but the Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO, is becoming more active, she indicated.

Clarifying, Knapp continued, “MJO is a tropical disturbance that moves eastward in the Pacific in a cycle of 30 to 60 days and can influence the intensity and impact of ENSO. It is highly variable with the greatest activity from fall through early spring.”

Knapp pointed out emphatically: “According to Groundhog Phil, the world’s most famous furry forecaster, there are six more weeks of winter ahead this year. But, there are 46 days left until spring, so that’s a pretty logical prediction.”

Possibly noteworthy, but likely unimportant, before Phil came out, organizers said the odds of him seeing his shadow were good. The groundhog had seen his shadow 100 times, and hasn’t seen it just 17 times, according to the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, the top-hatted gents who handle the animal and translate his forecast.

Weather changes by the minute, and there are a handful of computer sources for attempting to keep up on these often erratic variations.

Knapp suggested going to http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/wdl/, and she generously offered to provide personalized and updated weather information by e-mailing her at mknapp@ksu.edu.

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