Drought is taking hold in Kansas

Drought is gradually tightening its grip on Kansas.

Nearly two-thirds of the state is at least abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor data released Thursday. That’s up from 1 percent on June 20.

None of the state was in drought on June 20, but 20 percent of Kansas is now.

The culprit is a dry summer. Wichita has logged just 7 inches of rain since June 1, more than 4.5 inches below normal. September averages more than 2 inches of rain a year in Wichita, but 2017 has seen just 0.34 of an inch fall so far this month.

In southwest Kansas, Dodge City has recorded a mere 0.08 of an inch so far in September. Since June 1, 6.30 inches of rain has fallen in Dodge City, nearly 4 inches below normal.

Topeka has been an exception this year, with a wetter-than-average summer.

The thirsty state should receive some welcome moisture this weekend.

“We’re looking at widespread, beneficial rains,” said Andy Kleinsasser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. “It’ll definitely put a dent in the drought.”

But weather patterns indicate a dry period will settle in soon, said Larry Ruthi, meteorologist in charge of the weather service branch in Dodge City.

The Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook for October through the end of the year calls for below-normal precipitation for the eastern half of the state and average rainfall amounts for the rest of Kansas.

Forecast models are suggesting a good chance of a La Nina pattern settling in late this fall through early spring, Kleinsasser said. A La Nina is a periodic cooling of the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean.

That typically translates into warmer, dryer weather than normal in Kansas, Kleinsasser said.

“It doesn’t always work that way, especially if the La Nina is a weaker one,” he said. “We’ll just see what happens.”

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger