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Archive for Sunday, October 13, 2002

El Nio may bring wetter winter

October 13, 2002

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— Some forecasters are predicting at least slightly wetter weather this winter than Kansas had last year.

Kansas climatologist Mary Knapp, based at Kansas State University, said forecasters were calling for precipitation levels closer to normal a significant improvement from the drought conditions that plagued the state this summer.

Meteorologist Mark Svoboda of the national Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln cautioned that even if the winter is wetter than normal, it might not add up to much because moisture totals during the winter are relatively small.

Knapp also warned that the driest areas of Kansas northwest and west-central sections likely will remain dry. Some of those areas have registered moisture deficits for almost three years.

Meanwhile, warmer than normal temperatures predicted for this winter could prevent snow cover from protecting winter wheat, Svoboda said. Without that cover, the crop would be subject to damage during cold snaps.

Hopes for pulling out of the drought this winter rest on the strength of the El Nio weather pattern developing in the Pacific. During an El Nio, warmer water pushes the storm track farther south, which tends to make the Pacific Northwest drier and the Southwest wetter during the winter.

Svoboda said forecasters are greeting the development of an El Nio with "guarded optimism."

It is considered to be of moderate strength, and what effect it will have remains unclear.

The effect of El Nio also depends on how long it lasts. El Nios have been known to last for more than a year.

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