Assessing impacts of climate change on Kansas water resources: rainfall trends and risk analysis of water control structures



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Kansas State University


Precipitation impacts hydrologic structures, agricultural production, water resources management, and recreational activities, all of which significantly affect a state’s economy. Water control structure design is based on the maximum runoff rate resulting from storms with a specific return period and duration. The Rainfall Frequency Atlas (National Weather Service Technical Paper 40, 1961) (TP-40) provided statistical rainfall analysis as the basis for hydrologic structure design until the information was updated for Kansas in February 2013 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Atlas 14, volume 8) (Atlas-14). With growing concern about the effects of global climate change and predictions of more precipitation and extreme weather events, it is necessary to explore rainfall distribution patterns using the most current and complete data available. In this work, the changes in rainfall patterns were studied using the daily rainfall data from 23 stations in Kansas and 15 stations from adjacent states with daily rainfall data of 1890 through 2012. Analysis showed an increase in extreme precipitation events in Kansas with increase in magnitude from the northwest to southeast part of the state. A comparison of results of the TP-40 analysis to period 1980–2009, showed that approximately 84% of the state had an increase in short-term rainfall event magnitudes. In addition, trend analyzes on the total annual rainfall indicated a gradual increase at 21 out of 23 stations, including eight statistically significant trends. A change-point analysis detected a significant sudden change at twelve stations as early as 1940 and as recently as 1980. The increasing trend, particularly after the significant change-points, is useful in updating water management plans and can assist with agricultural production decisions such as crop selection and new plant variety development. A comparison between 10-yr, 24-hr storms from TP-40 and Atlas-14 indicated a change of -12% to 5% in Kansas. However, the number of exceedances from the 10-yr, 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 7-, and 10-day storms demonstrated a tendency towards more exceedances, particularly in the last five decades. Results of this study are useful for hydrologic structure design and water resources management in order to prevent accepting additional risk of failure because of the current changing climate.



Climate change and variability, Extreme rainfall events, Kansas, Hydrologic structures, Water resources, Rainfall trend analysis

Graduation Month



Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering

Major Professor

Stacy L. Hutchinson