Moisture keeps missing South Central Kansas with Stafford County recording no precipitation in December and not much hope for January.
The winds came howling across Kansas Jan. 22 and picked up every loose grain of dirt and sent it flying. The wind was a reminder that moisture has been hard to come by in the last couple of months and there is no prospect for immediate relief for the rest of January, said Mary Knapp, state climatologist.
For 2017, Stafford County received 27.66 inches of precipitation and that is just a quarter of an inch below the normal 27.91 inches for the county, Knapp said.
The rainfall falls amounts actually got off to a good start in 2017 with January receiving one inch over normal, but the moisture stopped in February with just 0.05 inches that is one inch below normal. March was a little over normal and then the rain really came down in April with 5.27 inches that was double the normal amount. May, June, July and August all had below normal amounts with each month about an inch below normal and July about half of normal with just 1.41 inches.
There was a big rebound in September with 5.65 inches that arrived in time for planting season and was a surprise because the normal rainfall in September is 1.92 inches.
October hit exactly the normal with 2.22 inches but then the faucet was shut off. For November, the county recorded just 0.07 inches and December flatlined with 0.00 inches recorded.
While the wheat had pretty good moisture for planting, it just didn't get much help through the rest of the year.
This is part of a La Nina weather pattern. Weather systems move across the U.S. east to west. For this area to get moisture, weather systems coming out of the four corners area tend to bring more moisture as they draw it out of the Gulf of Mexico, Knapp said.
The moisture from the Gulf is still coming north but it is reaching Missouri and Arkansas and missing Kansas. Some moisture is making its way into the state, especially in the northwest corner where there were reports of 14 inches of snow.
The little snow that made it to the south central part of the state didn't amount to much. Without the moisture, when a weather front comes through it brings a lot of high wind and big temperature shifts but not much moisture.
The wheat needs moisture but it also needs some stable temperatures below freezing. A weather station at Tribune recorded a temperature drop from 77 degrees to -9 degrees from Jan. 11 to Jan 16.
If the nighttime temperature stays below freezing, the wheat tends to stay dormant. But if it gets above freezing, wheat can break dormancy and start to use the subsoil moisture.
The moisture earlier in the year helped produce good growth for grass. The lack of moisture has made the grass very susceptible to fire. Knapp recently attended a prescribed fire workshop and heard several people say the situation was ripe for a big fire.
"If we get winds like we had yesterday (Jan. 22) anything that gets started can really take off," Knapp said.