Drought In The Heartland Worsens

Good morning bloggers,

We have been expecting January to be a rather calm month. And, it has lived up to that forecast.  February has been forecast, based on the LRC, to be much more active closer to Kansas City.  But, for now, we are still in the grips of what very well may be a worsening drought:

The drought developed late last winter into early spring. We actually had a somewhat wet winter last year, which mostly fell in the form of rain. We did set the all time lowest snowfall record (3.9″) last winter, and we are currently below that total (3.6″) this winter. But it is going to snow next month.  How much precipitation will fall in February and March? We are still forecasting below average rain and snow, so the drought will likely continue to worsen as we move into spring.  Here are the numbers since last April:

A big warm-up is developing today and will spread over a large area of the United States ahead of a strong cold front.  The jet stream is going to strengthen in response to this strong temperature contrast developing and a disturbance will dive south to near the USA/Canada border by Saturday morning:

The above map shows the 500 mb flow, and the below map shows the surface forecast valid at the same time.  A huge warm sector develops tonight into Friday and by Saturday morning we are under it’s influence. This should result in a temperature rise to near 60 degrees ahead of the front:

The strong cold/Arctic front will be crossing the USA/Canada border early Saturday morning. Out ahead of this we will have downslope warming and it could surge much higher than we are currently forecasting for Saturday’s high (57°). We may up that forecast high after we analyze this morning’s data.  If cloud cover is limited, then 60 or higher is likely.  Here is the 850 mb forecast valid at the same time:

We are going to be in the axis of warmest temperatures at this level as we move into Saturday morning.

Have a great Thursday and watch 41 Action News today and tonight. We will update our forecast and look ahead to our next chance of rain or snow.  Thank you for spending a few minutes reading the Action Weather Blog.


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24 comments to Drought In The Heartland Worsens

  • davidmcg

    Good morning Gary, somber title this morning. But, it is the truth and extremely accurate. More government agencies and people are now beginning to understand how bad it really is. It took a year longer for most to realize this, but the truth sometimes takes a long time to over come perception. Most people in rural areas knew all of this over a year ago, when our crops that feed everyone were fying and cattle were going hungry and thirsty, so cattle were sold off very early. Along with wells going dry. This drought could be worse, but it is what it is. We’ll climb out of it, we always do. The recovery however, will be slower and take longer to climb out of, then it did to fall into. The hope of what moisture may come, can not arrive to soon.

  • Dry Line

    Mr Gary —

    If in the unlikely event we recieve no more snow all year, are we ahead of last year in snowfall, or would we set a new record low?

    • WE would set a new record if it doesn’t snow again, but it is going to snow again.


      • Dobber

        Very bold Mr. Lezak ! I hope your right. Last year at this time penner and yourself were saying the same thing about February. We shall see…..

        • Dobber,

          Last year was last year. We did get our only significant snow of the season last February. This year we will easily double our small 3.6″ total we have had so far.


          • HeatMiser

            Oh god, I hope we far more than double it. Since you are expecting several snow storms in March I would hope we would triple or quadruple it. If these storms are only 1-3 inchers that would be, well, almost negligible.

  • cws9

    How long did the dust bowl days drought last in the 30’s? Wasn’t that like 3-4 years is a row? Does anyone doubt that history repeats itself?

    • Fred Souder

      According to my Uncle (living) and late grandfather, the 50’s were much dryer than this current spell and lasted for 6 or 7 years, and were much hotter. When I told him that the temperature was hotter this year and it was a record dry he scoffed. My grandfather said the “drouths” lasted about 4 years, and life was tough. All the people from the city that came to live and work on the farm because of the depression got along fine until the dust bowl. At any rate, the impression that I got was 4 years were really painful.

  • Sheryl3

    Although I am not a weather buff, I think that the drought is getting worse also and the high that is sitting in the West is something that concerns me since the cylcle repeats itself. My question is, last year’s summer what extremely hot, do you see this coming year to repeat itself in the heat or do you see more normal temperatures. I think that this winter’s temperture have been closer to normal so assume that the summer will follow with the same. What do you think?

  • rred95

    If we comtinue this drought into summer it will be devastating. The only positive is now a days crop and seed technology have developed crops to be more drought and heat resistent compared to say 15 or 20 years ago. However drought effects much more than just crops.

  • msilverman

    Just think, those paltry precip totals include the 4-6 inches of rain from the remnants of that hurricane last September. Take that freak event away and the numbers would be even lower.

  • mowermike


    Actually, I’m sure Gary used the official numbers out of KCI.(NW Platte county). They only recorded about 1.5 inches of rain for that event. Many others in the 4 county area received way more then that. I live just outside of Liberty and we had 6.35 inches of rain from that event. KCI also missed a few other storms where parts of the city received more. I recorded 20.35 inches for that same time frame(still way below) that Gary posted above. Many others, mainly in Clay, Johnson, Jackson counties recorded more then what the airport did.

    There were a few towns/cities in Jackson county I believe had a 7-9 inch total rainfall for May this last year,(2 isolated thunderstorm events) when most others did not have much at all for the month of May. They also got the high end of Isaac. Those folks are likely closer to 25 inches of moisture for the same time frame. Yes isolated and all of our area is certainly suffering from drought conditions, but some have had far more rain then 14.82 inches as shown in the blog today.

    • sedsinkc

      Mike, just to get the geography properly situated, KCI is located just southeast of the geographic center of Platte County. NW Platte County would put you somewhere not too far east of a point between Leavenworth and Atchison, KS on the MO side of the river.

  • sedsinkc

    To get an accurate representation the geographic distribution of rainfall amounts and/or deficits through time, you can use the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) website to generate state, regional and national maps showing rainfall departures from average in numerical and percentage form.

  • frigate

    I went back and checked my CoCOrahs, records for my station in Grain Valley, MO. April 1, 2012 to today 21.16, way below normal…but more than KCI, mainly because of Issac.

  • mowx1

    Out of your area, but not by much. My coop site has measured 21.53″ of precip for the same period of time. Normal is 41.72″. This represents a 20.19″ deficit. Anyway its dry. Enjoy the heck out of your blog. CCMM7

  • Theo

    Last May, Johnson County, KS had 2 rain events that were 5+ inches each time. 75% or more ran off into the sewers because of the hard pan ground and the rain coming too fast to soak in. There is no more subsoil moisture in JOCO than at KCI. It’s dry everywhere in the viewing area.

    One problem with extended periods of drought is that “normal” precipitation events become below normal. This is due to the ground and the air being bone dry, which robs moisture from the system and it precipitates less. We will need several years of above average rainfall to resupply groundwater and subsoil moisture.

    For those who say “Oh, it’s got to get better” or “this can’t last”, I would say, “Don’t bet on it.” Gary may not say it in so many words, but he is concerned with the LRC for 2013. It’s going to produce below normal precip and above average temps again. The drought will only get worse throughout 2013, not better.

  • All I know is that my sprinkler and hose were put back into service today for foundation watering, at least on the side of the house where the ground isn’t frozen anyway.

    Suspect tomorrow I will do more of the same.

    Just Dang!!

  • stjoeattorney

    Everywhere within 125 miles of here is in extreme to exceptional drought. The dry weather 2012 is already continued into 2013. Also, keep in mind that if warm air comes early in the spring that will only make things worse. The drought feeds upon heat and he feeds upon drought, they can become mutually exclusive. What starts to heat up to all levels of the atmosphere. It makes it much more difficult for the clouds to form. And without clouds, would have no rain, it becomes a vicious cycle until something comes in and really changes every piece of the weather pattern. The period 1952 through 1956 work stream as well as 1933 through 1937. Also, we had a mini drought from 1985 to 1988.

    • Theo

      Precisely. I believe we will be in a 2-4 year drought here as well. It’s a lot of real estate between the Rockies and the Atlantic Ocean that are in tough shape, long-term.

      “www.drought.gov” Click on the “Will the drought continue?” link on the drought map.

  • kellyinkc

    Yes, this drought is going to last. Makes me wonder how wise it is for Snow Creek to make snow. That’s a lot of water.

  • Emaw

    Our precipitation chances are like Manti Te’o’s girlfriend . . . . Nonexistent !

  • thomasmidwest

    Lol emaw thats awsome

  • Skylar

    That’s what I was saying about the drought a few days ago. Even if we are technically near average in some places, it doesn’t matter if none of it has gone to benefit the soil. The remnants of Isaac were great, I remember reading EAX saying that over 95% of the moisture we received went into the ground, not runoff.

    Also, if you believe in the LRC, this year will probably not be quite as bad as last year. Most of our moisture in the winter came from a few cutoff lows, with the main storm tracks far to the north and south. This year, they have briefly centered near our area which should gives us a few more chances for rain. Another factor is the snowpack. By last March it had already retreated into Canada, right now I think it’s still in parts of Nebraska and Iowa which will help generate more spring moisture across the central U.S. then what we got in 2012. We are definitely remaining in a drought, but it probably won’t be as bad as last year was.