KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: The impact of various soil types on Kansas weather

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas has more than 300 different types of soil. This is something Chief Meteorologist Lisa Teachman and I noticed while we were recently on the KSN Summer Road Trip. The soil in Western Kansas was dry compared to Central Kansas. Western Kansas soil is not as compact and is a looser texture. This means that it can be more difficult for this kind of soil to hold moisture. Typically in times of drought, Western Kansas hurts more than Central Kansas because of the soil composure.

In addition to drought and dry conditions, strong winds can make conditions worse. The wind can pick up loose topsoil into blowing clouds of dirt and dust. With the distinct difference in soil composition, this is why this weather phenomena happens more often in Western Kansas. Even if Central Kansas is experiencing drought conditions and strong winds, Western Kansas is more likely to experience blowing dust and dirt events. These blowing clouds can also cause a headache for farmers because it shows that the soil is eroding.

The blowing dust and dirt can reduce visibility to nearly zero. While rain is needed to saturate the ground, outflow from thunderstorms can also act as a mechanism that kicks up dirt and dust. Outflow is defined as rain-cooled air that moves away from a thunderstorm.

The peak time of year that wind causes soil erosion is November through April. This can be reduced by mulching with manure or hay.

-Meteorologist Ronelle Williams

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