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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Moisture levels in area short of average

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  • Pratt had some real winter in 2013 with some real snow. The season had been almost indistinguishable from fall and spring for the last two years but it showed up with a vengeance this year.
    While both city and county residents were busy digging out, many residents took it all in stride and said "We needed the moisture."
    Pratt has had some good precipitation in the first quarter of the year, particularly in February, said Mary Knapp, state climatologist.
    The Pratt area recorded 0.50 inches of precipitation in January, 1.85 inches in February and as of Tuesday, 1.12 inches in March with a slight chance for some more before the end of the month, Knapp said.
    The weather forecast through the end of the month calls for the possibility of 0.01 to 0.25 inches of precipitation so March will probably fall short of the average 2.30 inches for the month.
    For the year so far, depending on precipitation through the end of the month, it looks like the Pratt area will be just short of the average 3.84 inches for the area.
    Some of this precipitation was snow. While total snow amounts were over 20 inches in the Pratt area, when that is melted down it reveals the actual precipitation amount.
    On the average, Pratt should get 2.3 inches of precipitation for March. So even with the bigger snow amounts, Pratt still falls short.
    "Despite all the snow, you are running about an inch behind for March," Knapp said.
    Besides getting the snow, another good thing was the snow melted slowly and was absorbed into the ground rather than running off. That will help get crops started but they will need more to keep going.
    But most people in the area are glad to have the precipitation because all of Kansas is in some level of drought, some of it extreme.
    The moisture problems started back in 2010. Even though the year ended with a plus of 1.07 inches of precipitation above normal for the year, November and August were above average, other months were below normal. And then the drought hit.
    Rain and snow seemed to just avoid Kansas and much of the surrounding states. Pratt ended 2011 with a 7.8 inch precipitation deficit followed in 2012 with a 10.7 inch deficit. So far, 2013 is also running behind normal so the area needs precipitation and lots of it. A little rain is certainly welcome but the truth is it will take a lot of moisture to recharge the subsoil moisture, ground water and reservoirs.
    "We need a wet spring," Knapp said.
    If the area does get good precipitation this spring, it can all be used up quickly if the summer growing season turns out to be dry and have hotter temperatures than average.
    Page 2 of 2 - So more rain is needed during the summer to help keep crops in good shape for harvest.
    Even if it is a wet year with normal or above normal precipitation, it takes about the same number of years of good moisture to make up for years of bad moisture.
    "It takes time for the plants to recover," Knapp said.
    It is too soon to get an accurate long-range forecast. Right now there is an equal chance for above or below normal precipitation through the spring. The weather patterns are not favoring either an El Nino or La Nina.
    If the temperature goes just half a degree below normal, it would favor developing in to El Nino and that would mean more moisture, Knapp said.
    But for now, the pattern seems to suggest it will stay negative toward either system and could possibly stay that way through summer into fall.
    If it stays dry, besides damaging the crops, trees and water tables, it also creates a dangerous fire hazard in pastures and CRP fields.
    For CRP farmers it means they may have to delay burning their fields as required to control invasive species. But with dry conditions it can cause fires that can burn thousands of acres.

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