I haven’t made a geeky post in awhile so here is one about the weather. The last few years have seen some pretty intense drought over the central USA, and while much of that has improved, it’s seem like we just can’t seem to escape it around here. Even back in 2012 I would occasionally hear people comment that it seems like it rains everywhere but here. Some blamed it on the tornado and lack of trees. I didn’t buy that explanation but it does feel like Joplin is being singled out in this drought recovery. Enough so that I started keeping screen caps of all the times rain came through the area, but didn’t quite hit home. I have dozens of examples going all the way back to 2011…here are just a few from only the past few months as evidence that we are indeed in the center of a rain donut!

To explain – the images below show total precipitation from various rainfall events over a given 24 hour period.

This happens a lot. Rains travel hundreds of miles across the plains, only to fizzle out right on our back door.

This happens a lot. Rains travel hundreds of miles across the plains, only to fizzle out right on our back door.

Here is just the opposite. Storms form next door, but only move away from us!

Here is just the opposite. Storms form next door, but only move away from us!

Here we are right in the crack where two rain systems were about to converge.

Here we are right in the crack where two rain systems were about to converge.

Now that is what I call precision if you are trying to narrowly dodge some good rain.

Now that is what I call precision if you are really trying to dodge some good rain!

Again, a small halo of dryness, surrounded by respectable rainfall.

Again, a small halo of dryness, surrounded by respectable rainfall.

I don't even know how this is possible but that is a rain donut if I've ever seen one!

No, that is not a hurricane – it’s everywhere it rained over a 24 hour period. How is that even possible?

This radar capture would definitely make you think we are in line for rain... but nope. No rain for us from this storm!

This radar capture would definitely make you think we are in line for rain… but nope. No rain for us from this storm!

OK, so there are coutless examples of us getting neglected while our neighbors got rain. But does that really add up to a true picture of Joplin getting left out? Check out this next map, which shows total 2014 deviation from average precipition. While Joplin isn’t the ONLY place in the county that is severely short on rainfall this year, my gut feeling that we’re getting skimped turns out to be pretty true!

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 6.42.06 PM

This years drought hasn’t made headlines like ’11 and ’12, but strictly by the numbers, so far it’s actually worse. Because I am a dork and apparently have nothing better to do tonight, I have made this nifty little graph. It shows “average” rain compared to this year so far, and just for extra fun I’ve included the devastating drought of 2012 as well. I have taken the liberty of assuming the next 7 days forecast will be accurate.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 7.26.43 PM

One thing to note about the “average” is that our climate (Humid Sub-Tropical) typically should not have an exceptionally wet OR dry season compared to other parts of the year. The types of plants and trees found here require consistent and regular precipitation throughout the year. Historically, the driest months are January and February, with June being the wettest, but rainfall is generally fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.

So if we are so short on rain this year, why aren’t all the trees dying like in 2012? If you look at the graph, most of 2012 looks normal, with good heavy rains evenly spaced throughout most of the year – with just one flat section when it basically didn’t rain for 3 entire months during the growing season. Just 3 months without rain was enough to severely disrupt the plants here that are used to regular rain. And don’t forget that 2012 was one of the hottest summers on record!

Now, in 2014, while rain has been scarce all year (you may notice that the heavy rainfalls of 2″+ are completely absent from 2014), there small amounts of rain we’ve had has been pretty evenly distributed (as it should be), just enough to keep things alive. If you know anything about business, think of it as God adopting a “just in time” philosophy to cut back on rain inventory costs. So we’re in decent shape, even being about 15″ below normal and even worse than an exceptional drought year.

If the year continues on pace, it’s conceivable we could finish more than 20″ below normal, yet without any obvious signs of drought. Which I think is interesting. As with many things, it’s all about timing!