A hot, dry spring is sending mixed signals to Kansas climatologists trying to predict what kind of summer the Central Plains will have.
At the beginning of May, temperatures in Wichita, Kan., topped 100 degrees three times. Combine that with a lack of rain to the southwest, and crops across the state are starting to show signs of stress.
"Statewide, we're running at less than 25 percent of our normal May rainfall," says Mary Knapp, the state's assistant climatologist. "And of course, May is a very big month for us. That's the time of year we start getting our active moisture."
But what really has Knapp scratching her head is the just-released June report from the Climate Prediction Center that predicts both temperatures and rainfall in Kansas will be above normal next month.
"Those two don't go together very well," says Knapp. "It's very difficult to have above normal temperatures when you have normal to above-normal rainfall."
If Kansas does get a wetter-than-normal June, Knapp says it's likely all of the moisture would come at once. That's of little use to crops, which thrive on a combination of rainy and dry days.
Now for the good news – Kansas has seen far fewer tornados this year as a result of the dry conditions.
"You don't have much chance for a storm outbreak," says Knapp. "You don't have any moisture to fuel those storm systems."
But even that's a mixed bag. Even during a drought, the state can get straight-line winds that are just as damaging as any tornado. And, Knapp cautions, it takes a single active day for storms to really skew a state's severe weather outlook.