National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


Record breaking heat and drought of 2012



Record Warmth of 2012


Primarily due to a very warm first 7 to 8 months of the year (all sites recorded their warmest spring on record), 2012 went down into the record books as the warmest year on record for both Wichita and Chanute, and the 6th warmest for Salina.  By early August, it was looking like summer 2012 was going to give summer 2011 a run for its money, although that ended with the arrival of somewhat cooler temperatures by around August 10th.  Much of the Sunflower State recorded a record or near-record warm 2012.  In fact, the Nation as a whole experienced a record warm year, even exceeding all of the notoriously hot years of the 1930s and 1950s. 

Below is a table summarizing 2012 temperature data for Wichita, Salina and Chanute, along with rankings and normals.



Drought of 2012

The year started out promising for much of the region, with a precipitation surplus through early to mid spring for many locations across the region.  In fact, Wichita recorded its 3rd wettest winter on record (winter 2011-2012), tallying 7.29 inches of moisture.  Ironically, most of that fell in the liquid form, as relatively warm temperatures held the 2011-2012 season snowfall total to a measly 3 inchesThe faucet turned off by mid to late spring though, as high pressure in the mid and upper levels of the atmosphere began to dominate much of Mid-America.  This high pressure ridge, much like 2011, dominated through July, resulting in persistent below normal rainfall.  Salina recorded its 2nd driest May since 1900, Wichita its 6th driest July since 1888, and Chanute its 11th driest summer since 1894.  With the exception of a few months early in the year, most months during 2012 recorded below normal precipitation. 

The drought has had a detrimental impact on agriculture and crops across the region.  Due to a very dry fall, the winter wheat crop is already suffering.  According to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service from late November and early December, 25% of the winter wheat across the state was in poor to very poor condition, 46% in fair condition, and only 28% in good condition; only 1% was rated excellent. 

Of course, livestock suffered terribly.  Livestock producers were forced to move their animals off of pasture early because the grass was gone and the water supply was depleted. As of September 10th, farmers and ranchers with cow/calf operations had been feeding hay for a couple of months.  They were also forced to either deplete part of their herds or purchase high-priced feed.  No doubt, the economic ramifications were significant.  Cash flows on almost all livestock operations were severely impacted and in many cases operators with cattle were forced to sell livestock early which, in turn, resulted in less income.  Those who held on to their cattle had to buy expensive feed which also resulted in lost revenue.  Furthermore, the drought has not only had a negative impact on agriculture and crops, but also has greatly reduced water levels on reservoirs and rivers, with many areas reporting very low and in some cases record low stream flows.  This has adversely affected recreational boating

Below is a table summarizing 2012 precipitation data for Wichita, Salina and Chanute, along with rankings and normals.