Last summer was one of the hottest in Wichita’s history, including temperatures 100 degrees or higher on a record 53 days.
That was followed by an unusually warm winter and spring, so folks are naturally wondering whether they will broil this summer as well.
The short answer is, “Who knows?”
“There’s not any strong indicator available,” said Andy Kleinsasser, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wichita. “When you’re in the middle of a continent, it’s tough to find a really strong predictor for a season.”
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The thermometer hit 100 on this date – May 9 – a year ago, the earliest triple-digit day in the city’s history. The closest Wichita has come to that so far this spring was a record-setting 95 on April 25.
But no heat wave is in Wichita’s forecast for the next 10 days or more. In fact, highs are projected to only be in the 70s for at least the next week.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for June, July and August to be slightly warmer than normal for Kansas, with average precipitation.
AccuWeather, on the other hand, is calling for a hot, dry summer for western Kansas.
June looks to be particularly hot in Kansas, AccuWeather long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok said in an outlook published Tuesday on the company’s website. As the summer progresses, he said, the high pressure will shift farther west, drawing the hottest air north and west.
Kleinsasser remains unconvinced.
“When it comes to long-range forecasts, I don’t put a lot of faith in them,” he said.
Forecasters were calling for a cold, snowy winter in the heartland, he said, and that didn’t happen.
“The odds of having back-to-back scorching summers, it’s pretty rare – almost non-existent,” he said.
Folks may have forgotten that the summer of 2010 was also warmer than normal, he said. It was also damp. That led to sultry, humid conditions more commonly associated with the Deep South.
With Wichita more than 5 inches above normal for rainfall so far this year, this summer may more closely resemble 2010 than last year.
Larry Ruthi, meteorologist-in-charge of the Dodge City branch of the weather service, said warm ocean waters in the northern Pacific suggest to him it won’t be a hot, dry summer for the Sunflower State.
History has shown that when a La Nina fades, the jet stream over the continental U.S. drops farther south into the Great Plains. Not only does that mean more rain for Kansas, he said, it means the dome of high pressure that can send temperatures soaring into the 100s is less able to set up over the region.
The timing of the systems sliding down from the Pacific Northwest over the Rockies and into the Great Plains indicates Kansans could have a steady diet of nocturnal thunderstorms.
“I think we’ll see quite a bit of that this summer,” Ruthi said.
That’s ideal for farmers, gardeners and landscapers, he said. Rain that falls at night is less vulnerable to evaporation and has more time to soak in.
“As long as it rains,” he said, “everyone will be fairly happy.”