drought

Rodrigo Paredes / Flickr Creative Commons

Twenty-four counties in West Texas and a number of counties in Western Oklahoma were designated by the federal government last week as primary natural disaster areas.

From Texas Standard:

Despite a relatively wet May and June, it's gotten so dry in Texas ever since that more than 100 of the state's 254 counties are under burn bans. 

Public Domain via Needpix

Much of the Texas Panhandle and South Plains appears to be heading into severe drought conditions, despite heavy rains earlier in the summer.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, if the drought conditions continue as expected, it could take a heavy toll on crops in the region.

A recent report from NOAA’s National Centers for Environment Information shows there were 14 severe weather events across the country last year costing a total of $89.4 billion. Five of those affected the Mountain West region.

As extreme drought marched northward from Arizona and New Mexico and parked itself squarely over the Four Corners in early 2018, many turned to one tool to understand the change: the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The map is updated weekly, and it continues to show poor conditions in much of the Southwest.

Early season snowfall in some parts of the Colorado River Basin have raised hopes of a drought recovery. But that optimism is likely premature.

In Colorado, higher than average snowfall in October and early November has allowed ski resorts to open early after a dismal start to last year’s season.

Kansas' long drought is fading.

Drought covered more than 80 percent of Kansas in April. Now the National Weather Service says most of the state is drought-free.

Still, the dry conditions remain severe in parts of northeastern Kansas.

United States Drought Monitor

July rains brought most of western Kansas out of drought conditions. However, Colorado and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles are still struggling with drought.

Strong rains in Garden City last weekend brought July’s total rainfall to 9.1 inches, making it the city’s second-wettest July on record. 

Mike Umscheid a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said Garden City has gotten three more inches of rain this year than its average. In contrast, Amarillo has gotten less than half its average.

Wild Horses Being Impacted By Extreme Drought

Jul 24, 2018
US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management

Harsh drought conditions in parts of Colorado and other states are pushing wild horses to the brink and spurring extreme measures to protect them.

As The Denver Post reports, water and food is being hauled to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona to aid wild horses in remote grazing areas where drought has caused dried up springs and vanishing vegetation.

New research shows that Kansas is slowly seeing a shift in when it gets its rainfall during the year.

Depending on the region, Kansas typically receives between 35 percent and 41 percent of its annual precipitation during the summer months of June, July and August. But during the past 100 years, that trend is slowly shifting toward the spring.

Kansas Highway Patrol

After receiving nearly 10 inches of rainfall Monday evening, parts of northwest Kansas experienced heavy flooding that damaged roads and caused a highway closure.

Flooding occurred along the Saline river, which rose four-and-a-half feet above its previous record height. The floods washed out smaller roads and temporarily closed Highway 283 north of Wakeeney.

Southwest Kansas received around one to two inches of rainfall. Larry Ruthi, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said that while these rains will help alleviate the drought, most parts of Kansas are still facing a rainfall deficit.

From Texas Standard.

More than 40 percent of Texas is in some stage of drought right now, according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Some parts of the state are especially dry, like the Panhandle and the plains south of the area. That has caused some farmers and ranchers to face difficult choices – like what to do with cattle when there’s not enough grass to graze.

Public Domain

A black bear cub was killed in an accidental crash Monday near a Southwest Kansas town.

As the Wichita Eagle reports, the bear was found dead near Elkhart, Kansas. Black bears are an unusual sight for the area -- the last confirmed sighting in that county was in 2011.

But game wardens and biologists say there may be more bears in Southwest Kansas this year due to droughts and wildfires in New Mexico and Colorado. These conditions experts say, often push bears, especially young males, into Kansas.

From Texas Standard.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor Map shows most of Texas is in some stage of drought. The worst of it is up in the Panhandle, but almost everything southwest of the Brazos is affected.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune

Three years after one of the worst droughts in Wichita Falls history, life is returning to normal. But as Texas creeps back into a drought, water experts say residents in the city and around the state can do more to conserve water and prepare for the next shortage, which is always on the horizon.

From The Texas Tribune:

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

West Texas A&M University will host a prominent water conservation expert on Tuesday night, as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series.

Dr. David Sedlak is a professor of environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, and he has gained an international reputation for his clear-eyed solutions to a crowded world increasingly threatened by water shortages.

In a 2016 TED talk, Sedlak outlined a four-part plan for rethinking water supply sources in water-starved cities like San Francisco. Dr. Sedlak further expanded on these ideas in his book, Water 4.0.

CC0 Creative Commons

The Amarillo region has now gone 124 consecutive days without any measurable precipitation.

CC0 Creative Commons

The Texas Panhandle is in the middle of one of its longest dry spells ever.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the Amarillo area hasn't received measurable rainfall in more than 100 days. The Panhandle is the most severe example of a larger problem. According to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 40 percent of Texas is now experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions. And things aren’t expected to improve anytime soon.

Christmas trees are in short supply across the country, but growers in Kansas say they’ve mostly recovered from recent droughts.

Celia Goering, president of the Kansas Christmas Tree Growers Association, says a few years ago Kansas tree growers were struggling.

"This situation is looking wonderful now because we’ve had good rains in the last couple years, and that makes all the difference," she says. "The trees are growing. They’re beautiful."

US Drought Monitor

For only the fifth time since 2000, Kansas is entirely drought-free.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, the late-April winter storm brought more than two feet of snow to some parts of western Kansas and double-digit accumulation to a narrow band that stretched north to south in the western third of the state, erasing the final remnants of a drought that has been gradually receding during a remarkably wet spring.

By the end of 2016, nearly 83 percent of the state was experiencing some degree of drought.

CC0 Public Domain

Over the next couple of weeks, much of the country is expected to see above-average precipitation, a welcome sight for many farmers, particularly those in the fire-ravaged High Plains.

Management following a wildfire: Effects on vegetation and soils

Mar 1, 2017
Courtesy photo

Dry conditions at this time of year can lead to an increased danger of wildfires. While a fire from a prescribed burn in the spring will not harm perennial grasses on grazing lands, a wildfire may act differently. A wildfire can cause enough damage, especially to bunch grasses, to result in a decline in productivity for a year or two. This is not always the case, however. The best general advice on burned rangeland is to just wait and see how well it recovers.

Ice storm brings much needed moisture to Kansas crops

Jan 24, 2017
Kansas State Research and Extension

While last week’s ice storm wreaked a lot of havoc in the form of power outages, broken tree limbs and icy roads, it also brought much needed precipitation to Kansas’s wheat and alfalfa crops.

Kristofer Husted / KBIA/Rural Blog

Hydroponic farming could present an answer for farmers trying to find a way to grow crops in areas decimated by drought. Hydronics are a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.

As The Rural Blog reports, the idea is catching on in places like Egypt that are strapped for H2O. And some farmers in the U.S. are now looking to the technique as a solution for drought-ridden regions.

theogeo / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma cotton is back.

After years of struggling through dry conditions, the fluffy white stuff has returned in force to Oklahoma farmland, reports KFOR.

Kansas wheat crop facing drought

Dec 13, 2016
Brian McGuirk / Flickr Creative Commons

The condition of the winter wheat crop in Kansas is varied because of a lack of moisture.

US Drought Monitor

Colorado has been abnormally dry in recent months.

But, as KUSA Denver reports, that could be changing. Becky Bolinger, a climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins, says Colorado’s “going through a bit of a shift right now.”

Much of High Plains remains in drought

Nov 28, 2016
Jeroen Moes

Much of the High Plains region continues to be plagued by at least moderate drought.

According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, western Kansas, eastern Colorado and the Oklahoma panhandle are in moderate to severe drought.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Two years ago Oklahoma was experiencing a devastating drought. Then came 2015. Last year was the wettest year ever in Oklahoma. And the rain keeps coming. The state has breathed a collective sigh of relief since the drought’s end. But many climate scientists are now saying “not so fast,” reports StateImpact.

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