Dry conditions in early May leads to expansion of drought in Kansas

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For the week ending on May 5, 2020, precipitation was variable across Kansas. Over the seven-day period, Kansas received 58 % of normal moisture. The Southwest Division saw zero precipitation for the week and the West Central and Northwest Divisions had between 3 and 63 percent of their weekly normal. Meanwhile the East Central Division had 116 % of normal (Figure 1). Greatest measured daily precipitation in the state occurred in Osage County with 3.61 inches recorded (Melvern 0.9 E, on May 5). The highest precipitation amounts were seen in the east, with greatest in the East Central Division (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Percent of normal precipitation for the week of April 29-May 5, 2020. Values less than 100 indicate below-normal amounts. Map by the Kansas Weather Data Library.

Figure 2. Total precipitation (inches) recorded for the week of April 29-May 5, 2020. Map by the Kansas Weather Data Library.

Temperatures showed considerable variability with the warmest reading 95 oF (Garden City Exp. Station, Finney County, on May 2) and coldest being 31 oF (St. Francis, Cheyenne County, on May 1). The state averaged 3.3 oF warmer than normal for the seven-day period, with the warmest departures in the Southwest, which averaged 6.2 oF warmer than normal.  The northeast was closest to normal with an average departure of 1.2 degrees warmer than normal. (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Departure from normal weekly mean temperatures.

Drought status for Kansas

The dry start to May has resulted in worsening drought conditions in the western third of the state.  Extreme drought (D3) appears on the map for the first time this year (Figure 4).  In many areas, the soil surface is dry while the subsoil is moist (Figure 5).  Perennials are beginning to actively grow and decreases in sub-surface moisture are being observed with increased evapotranspiration demands. Drought stress is showing in many fields and will continue to worsen until above normal moisture is received.

Figure 4. Current weekly drought status (U.S. Drought Monitor).

Figure 5.  2-inch (surface soil) versus 20-inch (sub-surface soil) moisture (% of soil saturation) as of April 30, 2020. Data from Kansas Mesonet.


In the upcoming week, there is a slight chance of above-normal precipitation, particularly in the eastern parts of the state (weekly average precipitation for mid-May is 1-1.5 inches). As we move into summer, average precipitation across the state is increasing daily. As a result, more moisture is required to reach normal thresholds. The eastern border counties are expected to receive up to two inches (Figure 6). The outlooks suggest equal chances for above- or below-normal temperatures for the next 8-14 days.

Figure 6. Quantitative Precipitation Forecast for the week ending on May 14, 2020 (Weather Prediction Center).


Summary of key points

  •  Temperatures averaged warmer than normal.
  • Continued split precipitation pattern – wet to the east; dry to the west.
  • Extreme drought added to southwest Kansas; abnormal dry conditions were added in Northwest/North-Central.
  • Forecast for the upcoming week is for near-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation with highest confidence in the east.



Mary Knapp, Assistant State Climatologist

Christopher “Chip” Redmond, Kansas Mesonet Manager

Tags:  Drought