Ever Changing Kansas Climate

(Frank) And we’re back again. You know we talked about the topography and geography in Kansas being quite diverse and all that. But you wanted to say something about weather. (Deb) You know it’s really funny, not funny, but unusual and strange, this Spring has been so volatile all over the United States. Back home where I grew up in Ararat, Virginia, where we had never even heard of tornados, that was as foreign as a tidal wave, there were tornados this Spring already. And Kansas averages 50 tornados a year folks. But back where I grew up it’s a really rare thing. So, it’s just one of those phenomenon of our weather in Kansas, which is arguably the most spectacular in the country. Wouldn’t you agree Frank? (Frank) Yea. (Deb) Can anybody, can anybody match the variety of weather we have in Kansas? (Frank) Well, that’s what they say. You know you see the four seasons and the thing is, that’s a day in Kansas. (Deb) That’s a day. That’s a day. Exactly. And sometimes it’s lunch break. It’s just…it can be absolutely crazy. But it also makes life really interesting doesn’t it? (Frank) Yes, it does. (Deb) Especially if you’re living with it. (Frank) Just like today, as we’re filming this, the clouds keep running past the window here, which keeps changing the light, so we keep looking rather more weird than usual, that’s probably because the clouds keep coming, the sun going. (Deb) Right. It’s not our meds kicking in and out. That’s not it. It’s just the cloud cover and driving poor Michael crazy. If you don’t like the weather in Kansas, just wait five minutes. It will change. There are two seasons in Kansas: winter and road construction. Those of us who have seen temperatures drop 40 or 50 degrees in a couple of hours or seen blizzards shut down I-70 know that the old jokes aren’t jokes at all, but facts! Experts say the climate of Kansas can be characterized in terms of three types: humid continental, semi-arid steppe, and humid subtropical. The eastern two-thirds of the state, especially the northeastern portion, has a humid continental climate, with cool to cold winters and hot, often humid summers. The western third of the state, from roughly Route 281 westward, has a semiarid steppe climate. Summers are very hot, and less humid. Winters are highly changeable. The western region receives an average of about 16 inches of precipitation per year. Chinook winds in the winter can warm western Kansas all the way to 80 degrees. The far south central and southeastern reaches of the state have a humid subtropical climate with hot, humid summers, milder winters and more precipitation than elsewhere in the state. However, some features of all three climates can be found in most of the state, droughts, floods, heat, cold, thunderstorms, and blizzards. Precipitation ranges from about 47 inches a year in the southeast to about 16 inches in the southwest. Snowfall varies from around 5 inches in the south, to 35 inches in the far northwest. There are more than 200 days without frost in the south but only 130 in the northwest. Thus, Kansas is the ninth or tenth sunniest state in the country. Western Kansas is as sunny as California. Kansas is prone to severe weather, especially in the spring and early summer. Due to its location at a climatic boundary the state is vulnerable to strong and severe thunderstorms. Official reports indicate the all-time highest temperature recorded in Kansas was121 in July, 1936, near Alton. The all time low was -40 in February 1905, near Lebanon. Kansas’s record high of 121 °F, 49.4 °C, ties with North Dakota for the fifth-highest record high in the United States. The good news is, weather can be experienced in any corner of the state and there is no admission charged. In fact, we should put up signs at the state boundaries proclaiming, Kansas: Open Air Weather Museum!