High Plains Public Radio


Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Two years ago Oklahoma was experiencing a devastating drought. Then came 2015. Last year was the wettest year ever in Oklahoma. And the rain keeps coming. The state has breathed a collective sigh of relief since the drought’s end. But many climate scientists are now saying “not so fast,” reports StateImpact.


Kansas’s winter wheat crop has received a timely boost from Mother Nature, reports The Garden City Telegram. After threats of a returning drought, recent rains brought yearly rain totals up past normal amounts for this time of year.

weather.gov/norman / KGOU

April’s weather was exceptionally aggressive this year in Oklahoma, reports KGOU. Despite early fears of a growing drought, the state saw the seventh-wettest April on record. Statewide, Oklahoma received more than six inches of precipitation during the month.

Prowers Journal

Recent precipitation has helped to alleviate drought conditions across parts of Colorado, reports The Prowers Journal. Parts of the central mountains and Front Range saw as much as 3 inches of precipitation. And there’s more good news: short and long term forecasts favor continued precipitation. And reservoir storage looks good, so there are no immediate concerns for water providers.

US Drought Monitor / myplainview.com

The encroaching drought situation in the Texas Panhandle is quickly becoming critical, says myplainview.com. The latest Water Weekly chart on soil moisture conditions, released Monday by the Texas Water Development Board, shows almost the entire Panhandle-South Plains region now under deficient soil moisture conditions.


Ag research has done a lot for the High Plains, but it’s not getting the recognition it deserves, according to a senior irrigation engineer at Texas A&M University. Thomas Marek says today’s irrigated agriculture is capable of producing 40 percent more grain with 90 percent less energy and 60 percent less water than in the past, reports agjournalonline.com.


This spring is looking to be a dry one in Western Oklahoma, reports NewsOK.com. That’s bad news for ag producers in areas like Roger Mills County. Last spring, Roger Mills saw more rain in a few months than it often does in an entire year. But, unfortunately, the county hasn’t gotten much moisture since.


After a year in Colorado with abundant rains, abnormally dry conditions have been creeping across southeast Colorado over the past several weeks, according to The Denver Post. Last July, Colorado was nearly devoid of any dehydration.

By Leaflet - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.07 / Wikimedia Commons

If you enjoyed the massive amounts of rain most of the High Plains received last year, you may not want to get too used to it.  The weather patterns that brought moisture to the southwestern United States in 2015 were unusual. And these wet patterns have become more rare over the last 35 years, reports Colorado Public Radio.

High Plains Ranchers Need a Drought Plan

Dec 1, 2015
Cynthia Mendoza / USDA photo

Last week Beef magazine published a warning for ranchers: If you don’t have a drought plan, get one.

Brian Bledsoe, a Colorado Springs meteorologist, gave his 2016 weather forecast to more than 700 cattle producers. “This blessing of moisture we’ve had over the High Plains . . . is not going to last,” he said. Bledsoe believes the El Niño will peak in the next month or so. After that, he says the moistures will diminish in intensity and go back the other way.

US Drought Monitor: Great Plains Experiencing Relief

Nov 17, 2015

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has released the latest US Drought Monitor update. Things are looking up for the Great Plains. Kansas has experienced beneficial light-to-moderate precipitation, and Colorado saw some precipitation fall as snow. While parts of Eastern Kansas and Oklahoma are experiencing abnormally dry conditions and even moderate drought, the western plains areas of those states seem safe for now.

Texas Confronts Continuing Drought

Nov 9, 2015
StateImpact Texas

Texas is being forced to make some hard choices about its water use, reports StateImpact Texas. In 2011, Texas endured the worst single-year drought in its history. The current drought began in 2010.

StateImpact Texas has built an impressive interactive page on the drought, which you can view here.

In NW Kansas, Fear of Worsening Drought Conditions

Oct 8, 2015

A dry late summer in Northwest Kansas has raised concerns about a potential return to drought conditions. The latest US Drought Monitor listed the region’s drought status as “moderate,” reports Prairie Farmer.

Much of Kansas has seen enough rain to rescue wheat yields and nourish fall crops. But the stubborn northwest region has seen diminished yields of corn and soybeans. And some analysts are beginning to have concerns about next year’s winter wheat crop. 

As Drought Eases, Experts Urge Ranchers to Use Caution

Sep 16, 2015
Jennifer Carrico / High Plains Journal

Though heavy rains have brought relief to the drought-ravaged plains, the High Plains Journal warns that ranchers should be careful in the coming months and years. Though things look better than they have in ages, animal and range science experts advise ranchers to be guarded when stocking herds.

ewan_the_moomintroll / Flickr Creative Commons

America is losing groundwater at unsustainable rates. Although groundwater loss is underreported and poorly documented, it’s becoming a serious global problem, notes Beef Magazine.


The National Drought Mitigation Center’s latest Drought Monitor has been released, and areas of southern Kansas and eastern Colorado were 2-4 degrees above normal for the week. Above-normal precipitation was confined mainly to portions of northern and eastern Kansas and western and central Nebraska, with departures of up to 3 inches above normal observed over north central Kansas. With the cooler conditions and recent rains, most of Nebraska and northwest Kansas was no longer classified as “abnormally dry.”

Texas Debates Plan to Battle Future Droughts

Jul 28, 2015
Cynthia Mendoza / Flickr Creative Commons

The current drought in Texas began in 2010. Though the situation has improved somewhat, the drought is still with us—and so are the conditions that caused it, reports StateImpact, a reporting project of local public media and NPR.

The Texas State Climatologist has declared the statewide drought effectively over. But, the main source of the Lone Star State's water supply hasn't recharged, and that's the aquifers. The biggest benefit of recent rains to the underground supply is less water is being pumped to the surface.

It takes a flood

May 29, 2015
Luke Clayton

This time last year, we were in the midst of a drought that seemed to be unending. Week after week, we watched our lake levels drop steadily. The outlook for ground nesting birds such as wild turkey and quail seemed bleak. Moisture is important for a good hatch and possibly even more necessary for the survival of young birds. Last year, there was very little ground cover in many areas to conceal newly hatched birds. Our stock ponds which often serve as private fishing hotspots were drying up. What a difference a couple of months make!

A drought update in the midst of a downpour

May 19, 2015

The big story from the U.S. Drought Monitor for our region is rain.  Recent rains are made large scale drought improvement across southwest and west central Kansas.  There’s a small area of severe drought in northwest Kansas where the recen rains haven’t been as substantial.  Oklahoma and Texas has experienced big improvements, but some residual dryness is evident.

Exceptional drought conditions have been completely eliminated from Texas and Oklahoma for the first time since July of 2012.

Ranchers Beef Up Cattle Herds

May 13, 2015

Cattle prices and the possibility of a break in the drought has a Texas Panhandle family changing gears reports the Wall Street Journal. Rex McCloy and his two sons used to focus on growing cotton, corn, wheat, and soybeans. Now the family is betting the recent break in drought conditions will continue, and they’re investing in cattle. McCloy says three years ago there wasn't enough grass to feed a goat, let alone a cow. Now the family is building up the herd to capitalize on high cattle prices and lower feed costs.

Recent rains helped Kansas wheat fields, but one rain isn't going to save this year's wheat crop.

Looking to the Gulf to fill the Gap

Apr 16, 2015
Ivan Pierre Aguirre / The Texas Tribune

As the population of Texas continues to grow, the water level is dropping fast. Recently state lawmakers discussed the feasibility of utilizing the Gulf of Mexico as a water source for the state.

An alternative that is costly and fraught with controversy, however saltwater desalination could catch on in ways that groundwater desalination never did.

Drought Across Nation's Crop Region

Apr 9, 2015
Eric Luberhausen / US Department of Agriculture

 Drought conditions continue to expand across much of the Midwest, data released by the  shows moderate or worse drought conditions cover 36.8 percent of the US which is up nearly 5% from the week prior.

TownHall.com reports that things are looking up in areas like Iowa, Illinois and Kentucky who saw rain last week and can expect more in the near future. 

Amber Waves of Change: Dust Bowl Revisited? (Part 2)

Apr 6, 2015

The series continues with a look at the current drought conditions in the High Plains Public Radio listening region. In this installment, the question left dangling over our heads is, "Will the days of the Dust Bowl return?"

Boat launch fees and permits waived at Lake Meredith

Mar 26, 2015
Michael Schumacher / Amarillo Globe News

In a story from Amarillo Globe News reporter Kevin Welch, fees and permits for Lake Meredith are to be waived for the next three years as of April 1st 2015.

According to a news release from the National Park Service; the fees, which were established decades ago for maintenance costs, are no longer necessary due to upgrades and decreased visitation due to drought conditions.

Predictions that the drought is coming to an end in much of Kansas are getting skeptical responses from some weather officials reports the Wichita Eagle. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center indicates drought conditions will ease across the state disappearing in central Kansas and easing significantly in most of western Kansas. Janet Salazar is a hydrologist for the Wichita Branch of the National Weather Service. She says she doesn't know what’s driving the prediction. Larry Ruthi is the meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the weather service. He says he’s reluctant to declare the drought outlook is wrong. Jeff Hutton agrees if the present pattern continues the map is probably pretty close. The warning coordination meteorologist says even with near or above rainfall, the drought in southwest Kansas won’t be eliminated.

How The Oceans Have Dried Texas Out

Mar 17, 2015

Climate patterns from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have magnified the Texas drought, but that could be changing. A word of caution, the next drought could be worse.

Kansas said Nebraska used more than its fair share of water out of the Republican River in 2005 and 2006. The Supreme Court agreed, and ordered Nebraska to pay up.

When it comes to crops, corn is thirstiest

Feb 17, 2015

Agriculture drinks up 80 percent of the freshwater in America every year.  Every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports just how much that is, for what crops, and at what cost reports the National Geographic.

The latest survey shows corn is still king, using 14 percent more irrigation than the last report.