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Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

1712 Claflin Rd.

2004 Throckmorton PSC

Manhatan, KS 66506



Extension Agronomy

Kansas weather summary for 2016: Wet to dry

At the start of 2016 only two percent of the state was in any drought category, and that category was just “abnormally dry.” At the middle of September, the state was drought-free. However, a dry pattern developed after that time. With much-below-normal precipitation in September, abnormally dry conditions developed in southwest Kansas. The dry pattern continued and by the end of December almost 14 percent of the state, mainly in the Southwestern Division, had degraded to “severe drought” conditions. Conditions from abnormally dry to moderate drought expanded across much of the state. By the end of the year, only 17 percent of the state remains drought-free. Despite the short-term dryness, this year ranked as the 27th wettest since 1895.

Statewide average precipitation was below normal for the first 3 months, but switched to a wetter pattern in April. By May, only the East Central and Southeast Divisions were below average for the year-to-date. The Southwestern Division averaged 5.56 inches in April or 3.5 times the normal for the month. A wetter-than-average pattern in the late summer (August-September) allowed for drought conditions to disappear. However, the year ended on a dry note, which started in September in the southwest, and progressed to the rest of the state from October through December. December statewide average precipitation was 0.56 inches, just above half of the normal December total.

The greatest annual total for the year at a National Weather Service Cooperative station was 56.7 inches at Haysville 3SE in Sedgwick County. The greatest annual total for a CoCoRaHS station was 60.73 inches at Derby 2.9 N, also in Sedgwick County.The driest reporting station was 15.16 inches at Mingo 6SE in Thomas County. The greatest 24-hour precipitation total reported at a CoCoRaHS station was 9.32 inches at Clearwater 3.9 NNE in Sedgwick County on September 9th. The greatest 24-hour precipitation total reported at a NWS station was 8.31 inches reported at Hiawatha 9ESE in Brown County, on September 14th.




Snow was not much of a factor in 2016. The greatest total for the year was 25.8 inches at Goodland Renner in Sherman County. Over half of that came in February. December provided a secondary round of snow across much of the northern half of the state. The biggest impact from that event was to provide some insulating effect in advance of the extremely cold air that followed the snow system. There was a tie for the greatest 24-hour total with 15 inches reported at both Selden 11NW (Decatur County) and Atwood 8SSE (Rawlins County) on February 2nd. The state average annual snowfall for 2016 was 6.6 inches, below last year’s average of 8.6 inches, and well below 2014’s average of more than 21 inches. The greatest snowfall totals were seen in the Northwestern Division, while several stations reported no snow at all in 2016. In the eastern third of the state, much of the moisture that ended the year came as rain, not snow.

Temperatures averaged above normal for the year. The statewide average temperature in 2016 was 56.6 degrees F, which places it as the 9th warmest on record. Only May and December averaged below normal. November had the greatest departure from normal, with an average of 49.4 degrees F, or 6.4 degrees warmer than normal. Temperatures fluctuated considerably during the year, ranging from 110 degrees F at Webster Dam (Rooks County) on July 24th to -24 degrees F at Oakley 19SSW (Logan County), December 20th. Despite being warmer than average, all divisions also had temperatures plunge below zero. Even the Southeast Division recorded sub-zero temperatures, the coldest of which was a -12 degrees F at Smileyberg, Butler County, on December 18th.

The average date for the last spring freeze was April 10th. The earliest start to the growing season was a last freeze on April 2nd at various locations. Syracuse 1NE, Hamilton County, had the latest freezing temperature with 30 degrees F reported on May 3rd. Unlike last year, there were no widespread freezing temperatures after the middle of April. The first fall freeze was mostly seasonal statewide. The average date was October 29th. The earliest first frost was reported on October 5th at Goodland, in Sherman County. The latest first frost was reported at Yates Center on November 19th when temperatures dropped to 24 degrees F. The average length of the growing season was 201 days. The shortest growing season was at Goodland in Sherman County with 155 days. The stations with the longest growing season were Girard, Crawford County, and Marion Reservoir, Marion County, with a growing season of 230 days.

Drought conditions have shifted over the year, with a short period in which the entire state was drought free. The year started with only a small percent of the state in any form of drought, with only 2 percent in abnormally dry conditions. Despite the overall wetter-than-average year, lack of moisture in the late fall resulted in deterioration. Conditions declined most quickly in the southwest, with severe drought conditions in that part of the state. Currently almost 14 percent of the state is in severe drought. The lack of moisture created problems with establishment of fall-seeded crops, such as winter wheat and winter canola. The continued dry weather, coupled with warmer than normal temperatures in November, resulted in abnormally dry conditions spreading into all areas except for parts of the Central, North Central, and Northeastern Divisions.

Currently, almost 52 percent of the state is in abnormally dry conditions, with an additional 17 percent of the state in moderate drought. Little change is expected during the winter, although the severe drought might continue to push north and eastward. Normal spring rains are critical for any improvement in drought conditions. The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is expected to be in the neutral phase as we move into the spring. This uncertainty gives little confidence in increased moisture across the region, and is expected to continue into the spring. The uncertainty of the continued El Niño provides little guidance for the summer seasonal outlook, although there is an increased chance of above-normal temperatures statewide for the May-to-July period. The Climate Prediction Center’s outlooks don’t indicate how much the temperatures might vary, nor how temperatures would be distributed over the three-month period.

The severe weather season wasn’t as active as 2015, nor as active as the 5-year average. Preliminary numbers from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) show a total of 99 tornadoes in 2016, compared to a total of 178 tornadoes in 2015, and the five-year average (2008-2012) of 116 tornadoes. In contrast, hail and damaging wind reports were higher in 2016, with 569 hail report versus 519 hail reports in 2015 and 539 damaging wind reports versus 454 reports of damaging winds in 2015. Data on other severe weather events are available from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) storm database, but only through September. For the period from January to September, there were 228 flood or flash flood events affecting more than 69 counties. There were two fatalities from the flood events: one in Sedgwick County on August 19th and a second in Norton County on September 3rd. Preliminary damage reports total to property and crops from the floods was more than three million dollars. Generally, these property and crop damage reports are underestimated. In many cases, crop damage isn’t immediately available and fails to be included in the storm total. Likewise, property damage that is from uninsured losses often is also missing in the overall total. There were no excessive heat events reported in 2016. There were 46 winter weather reports through September, with the bulk occurring the first week in February. This total does not include the winter weather with snow and extremely cold temperatures in December. 



2016 Annual Summary

Kansas Climate Division Summary


Precipitation (inches)

Temperature (oF)


2016 Jan through December





Dep. 1

% Normal


Dep. 1











West Central
























North Central
















South Central
























East Central



































1. Departure from 1981-2010 normal value

2. State Highest temperature: 110 oF at Webster Dam (Rooks County) on July 24th.

3. State Lowest temperature: -24 oF at Oakley 19SSW (Logan County), December 20th.

4. Greatest Annual rainfall: 56.7 inches at Haysville 3SE, Sedgwick County (NWS); 60.73 inches at Derby 2.9 N, Sedgwick County (CoCoRaHS).

Source: KSU Weather Data Library





Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library