Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rainfall a mixed blessing

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 8/7/2013

It’s an old farmer’s saying that one extreme follows another, John McFarland said.

That sentiment has held true this summer, McFarland, a farmer with about 1,000 acres of corn, said, referring to the recent rainfall the area has seen compared to last year’s drought. Rainfall has totaled 6.06 inches since July 21, officials at the Ottawa Water Plant, said.

It’s an old farmer’s saying that one extreme follows another, John McFarland said.

That sentiment has held true this summer, McFarland, a farmer with about 1,000 acres of corn, said, referring to the recent rainfall the area has seen compared to last year’s drought. Rainfall has totaled 6.06 inches since July 21, officials at the Ottawa Water Plant, said.

“Rain the first week of August is always a blessing,” he said. “We were dry for about five weeks there and didn’t have any moisture. It hurt the corn considerably.”

Compared to last year, this year’s corn harvest will be much better, thanks in large part to the late summer rainfall, McFarland said.

“Depending on what [rain amounts] we get from here on out, it’ll cause some disease problems in the soybeans, but I don’t think it will affect the yield too much in the corn,” he said. “After the last two years, [corn yield] is going to be considerably better.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean a bumper crop though.

“I’m hoping the corn makes 50 to 100 bushels an acre,” he said. “Normally we shoot for 120 to 150 [bushels an acre]. Last year [corn yield] was next to zero. Anything would be better than that.”

Because his crops are in an upland area, McFarland said, even if the rainfall continues, his corn crops will be fine — but that’s not true for all farms.

“We’re set up right now to have a pretty major flood because we’re so saturated,” he said. “If we get the rain we’re talking about the next couple days, there could be major flooding for the crops along the river this time of year. We’ll keep praying that doesn’t happen.”

WHY ALL THE RAIN?

It might seem like it’s been raining all summer and the clouds have overstayed their welcome, but Mary Knapp said there’s a reason the rain just won’t go away.

“What we’ve had is a shift basically in the general weather patterns that have favored continued rainfall over our area and a couple other factors that have come into play,” Knapp, state climatologist, said. “There’s a dome of warm air over Texas and it’s basically just over the line into Oklahoma and north Texas, and the high temperatures are running in the upper 90s to low 100s [in that region], where we’re seeing temperatures in the upper 70s to low 90s.”

That dome of warm air helps steer moisture from the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico into this region, she said, along with a stationary front to the north that’s created instability. A stationary front happens when a boundary occurs between two air masses, but neither mass is strong enough to replace the other, she said.

“When you have all that you can have storms bubble up and produce rain,” Knapp said. “Those have combined to give us our persistent rainy pattern that we’ve had.”

Sunshine would be a nice change of pace, Knapp said, but the extended forecast isn’t looking very sunny.

“The six- to 10-day outlook, which carries us through Aug. 16, favors wetter conditions across Kansas,” she said. “If we look at the next five to seven day rain totals, which goes from Aug. 7 to Aug. 12, there’s a big blob of red and purple right over all of Kansas looking like we could receive somewhere between 2 to 3 inches of rainfall.”

WINTER WEATHER INDICATORS

The region saw a great drought last summer, while winter crept all the way up into May, Knapp said. This milder and wetter summer doesn’t necessarily give any indication as to what winter might look like, she added.

“There are a couple ways to look out further than mid- to short-term forecasts,” she said. “[Forecasters] look at the state of the Pacific — if it’s in El Niño or La Niña — and currently it’s neutral. They also look at the Madden-Julian [Oscillation] and it changes in a 30- to 60-day time frame.”

The Madden-Julian Oscillation affects how strong an El Niño or La Niña is, as well as influencing tropical cyclone activity in both the eastern Pacific and Atlantic basins during the Northern Hemisphere summer, according to the climate prediction center’s website. El Niño effects typically result in warm ocean currents in South America, where as La Niña is the opposite effect, causing cooling of the surface water of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, Knapp said.

The Madden-Julian Oscillation might not help give much indication as to what Old Man Winter has up his sleeve, but it has played a part in the lack of hurricanes in the Atlantic, Knapp said.

“[The Madden-Julian Oscillation] has decreased [the likelihood] of tropical systems in the Atlantic,” she said. “There’s been much more tropical storm activity in the Pacific side, but there really isn’t any strong signal [about winter] one way or the other.”

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY

Not everyone has enjoyed the recent surge in rainfall. The rain has kept people away from the Ottawa’s City Pool, 405 S. Locust St., Ottawa, Brandy Shoemaker, Ottawa Recreation Center’s recreation manager, said.

“We’ve had to send staff home earlier, and it makes for longer days,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a lot of fun when the place is busy and we get to see kids come through.”

With the rain comes more cloud coverage, and with more cloud coverage comes cooler temperatures — a combination that’s taken a toll on pool attendance, Shoemaker said.

“We’ve had to be closed more due to the rain and storms that have come through,” she said. “We’ve either been closed or had to close early approximately 10 days because of the weather.”

Another problem the region likely is seeing is an increase in mosquitoes, Knapp said. Lack of sunshine because of constant rainfall isn’t allowing for water to dry up in places it normally wouldn’t accumulate, she said.

“It’s not as much of a problem when you don’t have any water, but now it’s likely to be in places where water will stagnate in pots or crevices of rocks,” Knapp said. “It creates a nice breeding ground for mosquitoes.”

The recent rainfall has caused wetter conditions than normal, Knapp said, but it’s not the most unusual outcome.

“We don’t typically see all-day rain events like we’ve been seeing,” she said. “It’s more common to have clear skies for most of the day and storms at night, then start off clear again. So this is unusual in the fact that we’ve had persistent cloud cover and on and off again showers — that’s unusual.”

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