December precipitation across Kansas averaged 1.69 inches, almost double the normal amount. That helped ease drought conditions in parts of the state and early forecasts point to a further reduction in 2012, according to Kansas climatologist Mary Knapp.
“The preliminary statewide average precipitation total for December was 192 percent of normal,” said Knapp, who is director of the state’s Weather Data Library. “That makes it the 16th wettest December since 1895.”
The Weather Data Library is based at Kansas State University.
Knapp said southeast Kansas was the wettest overall, with an average of 2.85 inches or 179 percent of normal, but southwest had the greatest departure from normal, with an average of 1.58 inches or 345 percent of normal. Despite having the 5th wettest December since 1895, southwest Kansas ended the year as the 4th driest on record. Northwest Kansas was the driest in December, with an average of 0.39 inches, or 81 percent of normal.
The U.S. Drought Monitor (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) posted Jan. 3 showed another decrease in the area of all drought categories in Kansas, Knapp said, although more than 57 percent of the state was still reported as abnormally dry to exceptional drought.
Recent forecasts indicate that drought conditions are expected to continue in southern portions of the state, she said, but some improvement is expected in extreme eastern and southeastern Kansas.
“The La Niña (http://www.elnino.noaa.gov/lanina.html) has continued and is expected to influence precipitation patterns through the winter, with drier- than-normal conditions expected across the Southern Plains,” said Knapp, referring to cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and their impact on global weather patterns. “The influence of the Atlantic Oscillation and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which had fueled the storms in December, is expected to weaken, resulting in less moderation of the La Niña impacts.”
Nevertheless, the outlook calls for the La Niña to continue to weaken, Knapp added. By early summer, the consensus forecast calls for the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to return to neutral conditions. Some models even call for El Niño conditions by early summer, which would mean warmer-than-normal waters in the Pacific Ocean along the equator. El Niño conditions favor wetter-than- normal conditions in the Central Plains during the summer.
More information about Kansas weather is available at http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/wdl/.