Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Drought comparison and some other items left in the queue

The Kansas State Fair is a distant memory, our growing season is done and the northeastern U.S. is still dealing with the leftovers of Sandy.  Here's hoping that our neighbors there rebound quickly from this devastating storm.

Today I wanted to do a drought comparison from around the time I last blogged to now.

For a large portion of western Kansas, there hasn't been much change at all.  However, notice the improvements that have taken place in eastern Kansas.  Places like Emporia and Fort Scott have seen the drought severity go from D4 (exceptional drought or the worst) to D2 (severe drought).  In fact, around 60% of Kansas was in D4 conditions on September 11...now it's 40% of Kansas.  But is the drought over?  Hardly!  Check out NOAA's official Winter Outlook that was released October 18th:

The big question mark for us this winter is the intensity of the weather pattern El Niño.  If you recall El Niño is "characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe" (NOAA).
(Graphic courtesy: NOAA)
The winter months in Kansas during an El Niño episode are usually milder.  Enhanced areas of precipitation usually occur a little farther to our south, from California to Texas and Florida.  But given the question marks in the El Niño forecast, there is then uncertainty in the winter forecast.  Other weather factors that can't be reliably forecast until a week or two in advance can also play havoc with our forecast. 

Yes, there's certainly some uncertainty!