Kansas weather highlights for 2018

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How well do you remember the weather events in Kansas last year? Many of us may be trying to forget! Let’s take a quick look back with this month-by-month highlight reel of the significant weather events affecting Kansas in 2018.


After an extended period with little to no moisture, parts of Kansas recorded some significant precipitation. At Tribune, a small snow event on January 12 snapped a 97-day period without any precipitation. This ties the previous record set in 1901. When it comes to a wetting precipitation event – defined as a tenth of an inch or greater – Elkhart was just two days shy of the 120-day record set in 1936. Manhattan established a new record of 87 days, which ended on January 10 with 0.17 inches.  The previous record was 76 days set in 1927. Still, the amounts were well below-normal. State-wide, the average precipitation was 0.34 inches or 46 percent-of-normal.


The drought continued in all but the Southeast Division, the only area of the state that was above-normal for the month, with an average of 1.99 inches or 109 percent-of-normal. The greatest monthly precipitation totals were 4.37 inches at Coffey Waterworks, Montgomery County (NWS) and 4.05 inches at McCune 1.6 NW, Crawford County (CoCoRaHS).


March was a relatively quiet month. There was a continued pattern of wide temperatures swings, as might be expected with the dry air in place. The statewide average temperature was 44.7 degrees F, or 1.2 degrees warmer-than-normal. The cold days were not persistent enough to outweigh the warmer start to the month. Only the Northeast Divisions averaged below-normal temperatures for the month.  The average temperature for the Northeast was 42.1 degrees F, or 0.4 degrees cooler-than-normal.


April set a new record as the coldest since 1895. The state-wide average temperature for the month was 46.7 degrees F. This was 6.5 degrees cooler-than-normal. There were 189 new record daily cold maximum temperatures, of which 18 set new record low maximums for the month. In addition, there were 291 new daily record low minimum temperatures, of which 3 set new records for the month. The lack of tornadoes in April made for the latest start to the tornado season since 2000.


May came close to setting the record as the hottest since 1895. The state-wide average temperature for the month was 70.6 degrees F. This was 7.2 degrees warmer-than-normal, and ranked as the second warmest. The swing from the cold of April to the warmth of May was the largest change on record at 23.7 degrees, and created a lot of difficulty for crops. One of the most destructive severe weather events was the heavy flooding in Graham and Gove counties, where widespread rainfall amounts in excess of 4 inches were reported.


While the heat in June was less dramatic as May, June still came in as the 7th warmest since 1895. The state-wide average for the month was 77.9 degrees F. This was 4.2 degrees warmer-than-normal.  There were 50 new record daily warm maximum temperatures. The real warmth came in the low temperatures where there were 116 new daily record warm minimum temperatures. Two of those set records for the warmest minimum temperatures for June at those locations. With the resurgence of moisture, severe weather reports during the month also increased. Tornado numbers were lower than in May with only 4 tornadoes reported. Unfortunately, one hit the town of Eureka. Eight people were injured and the damage was widespread. In addition to the tornado damage, there were significant damages from hail and wind storms. Total storm reports: 4 tornadoes, 105 hail events, and 268 reports of damaging wind.


July started out warm but ended with a cool pattern. State-wide average temperature for the month was 79.0 degrees F. This was just 0.4 degrees warmer-than-normal, and ranks as the 55th warmest since 1895. The July precipitation showed a similar split pattern, with the greatest rainfall totals in the western and central parts of the state. The state-wide average precipitation was 3.94 inches which was 110 percent-of-normal. The division with the largest surplus was the Southwest Division, with an average of 5.56 inches, or 205 percent-of-normal. During the last week of July, 88 out of 106 reporting stations in the Southwest Division had 2 inches or more of precipitation. While only one tornado was reported, wind and hail caused significant damage.  In one instance, storm damage contributed to a house explosion in Topeka. Several people were injured. Damage to the home was estimated at $150,000 with damage to neighboring homes at $100,000. Total storm reports: 1 tornado, 50 hail events, and 135 reports of damaging wind.


After a very warm start to the summer, August had a cooler note. State-wide average temperature for the month was 76.5 degrees F. This is 1.5 degrees cooler-than-normal, and ranks as the 37th coolest since 1895. The August precipitation showed a more even distribution than earlier in the summer and brought drought relief. The state-wide average precipitation was 4.17 inches which was 125 percent-of-normal. Wind and hail caused significant damage in Sherman, Cheyenne, and Rooks counties.


Rainfall was the big story with NWS Coop station at Marysville, Marshall County, reporting 12.23 inches; the CoCoRaHS station at Manhattan 3.7 N, Riley County, 11.37 inches; and the Kansas Mesonet on the North Farm at Manhattan, 8.00 inches. Most of the rainfall occurred during the first week of the month, particularly over the Labor Day weekend.  The flooding produced by the intense rains resulted in a Governor’s disaster declaration that covered 5 counties: Jewell, Kingman, Marshall, Pratt, and Riley.


October was a very wet month across Kansas. It actually ranked as the second wettest October since 1895. The wettest October on record was in 1941 when the state-wide average was 5.99 inches. This year, the state-wide average precipitation was 5.88 inches, or 259 percent-of-normal. Not all precipitation was in the form of rainfall. A total of 257 stations reported snowfall in October, with monthly totals ranging from trace amounts in eastern Kansas to 9 inches at the CoCoRaHS station north of St. Francis, Cheyenne County.


November was drier-than-normal across most of the state, providing a welcome relief to the very wet conditions in October. Severe winter weather was the main feature for the month, with blizzard-conditions across most of central and northern Kansas on the November 25-26. Sadly, there was one fatality when a stranded motorist attempted to walk to safety and died from exposure.


December was wetter-than-normal across most of the state, but the precipitation fell mostly at the beginning and end of the month. With over 600 reports, the average amount on December 1 was 0.69 inches; for the 27th (the second big event), the average amount was 1.26 inches based on 625 reports. State-wide average precipitation for December was 2.22 inches, or 232 percent-of-normal.


What will 2019 bring to Kansas? Keep up-to-date on the latest weather impacts and developments with the Extension Agronomy eUpdate, the Kansas Climate Page, and the Kansas Mesonet.




Mary Knapp, Assistant State Climatologist and Weather Data Library

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