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K-State Agronomy eUpdates

Department of Agronomy

Kansas State University

2004 Throckmorton PSC

Manhatan, KS 66506

785-532-6101

agronomy@ksu.edu

Extension Agronomy

How dry and windy has it been in Kansas so far this year

The dry weather that has persisted into April has raised concerns. In western Kansas, this has been the 6th driest start to the year since 1895. Below is a map showing the total rainfall for 2016 by division and the historical rank:

With a very dry start to the year, drought has increased across the state. Impacts of these drought conditions have been felt in several ways, with one of the biggest issues being prolonged periods of critical fire weather. Contributing to these fire weather concerns is the wetter-than-normal condition that prevailed during the previous year’s primary production season for grass – May to July. Those wet conditions favored high amounts of fine fuels. The lack of snow cover to pack the grass down has left grasses standing upright and able to carry fire very well. Below is a map showing the May-July precipitation ranks for 2015:

 

In addition to the dry conditions, strong winds have created increasing problems with blowing dust and extreme fire behavior. Below is a table comparing this year’s average winds at the National Weather Service 1st Order stations to data at the same location from 1930-1996:

 

 

 

Kansas Winds

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Concordia

Historical Wind Speed (1930-1996)

12

12

14

 

 Wind Speed 2016

9.7

11.8

12.3

 

2016 Days avg >= 20 mph

0

1

2

 

Peak Gust (1930-1996)

60

52

54

 

Peak Gust 2016

28

37

38

Dodge City

Historical Wind Speed (1930-1996)

11

11

12

 

 Wind Speed 2016

11.4

13.2

13.9

 

2016 Days avg >= 20 mph

1

1

3

 

Peak Gust (1930-1996)

66

57

48

 

Peak Gust 2016

32

38

40

Goodland

Historical Wind Speed (1930-1996)

13

13

14

 

 Wind Speed 2016

11.1

13.6

14.3

 

2016 Days avg >= 20 mph

0

0

3

 

Peak Gust (1930-1996)

64

51

53

 

Peak Gust 2016

44

44

49

Topeka

Historical Wind Speed (1930-1996)

10

10

12

 

 Wind Speed 2016

7.4

9.7

9.6

 

2016 Days avg >= 20 mph

0

0

0

 

Peak Gust (1930-1996)

49

47

43

 

Peak Gust 2016

24

40

33

Wichita

Historical Wind Speed (1930-1996)

10

10

11

 

 Wind Speed 2016

10

12.3

13.9

 

2016 Days avg >= 20 mph

0

1

4

 

Peak Gust (1930-1996)

59

49

49

 

Peak Gust 2016

28

31

43

 

While wind speeds have been only several miles per hour higher than average so far in 2016, that is a significant increase considering the overnight periods, which are typically calm.

Many overnight periods are not experiencing winds die down, with continued mixing into the mid-levels. This not only brings increased winds, but also prevents relative humidity recovery at night -- critical to impending fire weather the next day. This is creating some “ideal” prescribed burning conditions overnight, but also allowing previous fires to rekindle much easier because moisture doesn’t return to the fine fuels at night. With winds continuing overnight, some fires have been able to make significant runs at night whereas typically fires would lay down. Below is a map of the March average daily wind speeds statewide showing persistent winds:

Strong wind gusts were also observed statewide:

 

April hasn’t had any slacking in the wind. Below is the percent of time with winds greater than 10 miles per hour for the first week:

 

 

 

Christopher Redmond, Weather Data Library/Kansas Mesonet
christopherredmond@ksu.edu

Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library

mknapp@ksu.edu