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2013 a dry, cold year in region

12/17/2013

A look at some of the top stories from northwest Kansas in 2013.

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

What a year, this one.

The state first was pummeled by drought, doused by heavy rains -- at least for some regions of the state -- and then put on ice for the final days.

"It was a very weird one," said Mary Knapp, the state's climatologist and keeper of all things weather at Kansas State University's weather library.

While there's still time left in the year for change, Knapp said it's clear the year will end up on a cooler-than-normal note, especially considering the deep freeze that enveloped Kansas, and much of the nation, earlier this month.

This cooler-than-normal weather is more noticeable because it follows what was a blistering year -- the third warmest in the 111 years records have been maintained at the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center at the south edge of Hays.

Temperatures in 2012 never fell below zero, the first time since 1899. This year, there weren't any below-zero readings early on, but there already have been several this fall.

And it's not even winter yet. That starts at 11:11 a.m. Saturday, according to the Naval Observatory, the keeper of time in the U.S.

While cooler than normal, 2013 was a relatively normal year.

Conditions actually started out wetter than normal, but following in the wake of 2012, virtually anything seems normal.

Through November, Hays received less than normal precipitation, but just barely.

It was July's 7.08 inches of rain that saved the year, however, and many of the crops farmers were waiting to harvest.

That was true across the state, although some places had weeks of rain, uncommon in a drought, filling ponds, rivers and in some cases reservoirs.

In the western half of the state, the heavy rains were more isolated, but they were reported, in places such as Goodland and Wallace and Ness counties.

August, however, followed with just 0.59 of an inch of rain.

The heavy rains altered the look of the drought monitor map, which now shows only parts of six counties in extreme drought. The western reaches of the state, from Ellis County west, are in either a moderate or severe drought.

In early September, most of that area was in either a extreme or exceptional drought.

"Now, getting any kind of change is going to be slow to happen," Knapp said. "We're in a dry part of the year. You're not going to see much improvement in a week."

Changes, she said, won't be coming until February or March when rainfall patterns start to increase and plants and trees start using water.

But Knapp isn't ready to call an end to the drought.

"Really, the cold weather we're having is really a mixed blessing," she said. "It's frozen over the ponds, and that slows the evaporation."

Evaporation doesn't stop in winter months, even though humidity levels are at their driest.