Autumn in August?
The numbers don’t lie.
August has historically boasted many of the highest temperatures in Wichita. But the mercury hasn’t hit 100 once this month.
“We haven’t even gotten close,” said Chance Hayes, warning coordination meteorologist for the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service.
The temperature reached all of 93 degrees exactly once in the first half of the month. The average high of 84.6 degrees so far is more typical of autumn’s arrival – not the dog days of summer.
“It seems like fall has set in somewhat earlier,” Hayes said.
And not just in Wichita.
Temperatures in Minnesota and Wisconsin dropped to freezing a few days ago. AccuWeather is predicting early frosts for the northern Great Plains and the Ohio Valley.
The central Plains – including Kansas – could see snow in late October or early November, AccuWeather says.
It’s not the cool August that has Larry Ruthi’s attention.
“It would be difficult to directly correlate the occurrence of cool, damp weather in late July and August with an early autumn, but there are some indicators that fall will come early this year,” Ruthi, the meteorologist in charge of the Dodge City branch of the weather service, said in an e-mail response to questions.
Temperatures are lower than normal in the Arctic and higher than normal in the Atlantic Ocean, he said. The atmospheric ridges that set up as a result of these features “favor early incursions of cold air in the upper Midwest and probably in the central Plains,” Ruthi said.
That translates into finding sweaters and jackets earlier than normal. People in the Wichita area won’t find that hard to believe because highs this month have routinely run 10 to 15 degrees below normal.
The average temperature this month – combining the highs and lows – was 76.6 degrees through the first half of August. That’s 4.4 degrees below normal, Hayes said.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s actually really significant,” he said.
Wichita averages five 100-degree days in August each year. Two of the three longest stretches of triple-digit temperatures recorded began in August. The hottest day on record in Wichita – 114 degrees – occurred in August 1936.
The next week or more will start to feel more like August, computer forecasting models indicate, thanks to a zone of high pressure that appears to be moving into the Great Plains.
As autumn nears, Hayes said, he will be watching for more short-term weather patterns that bring significant rainfall to the region.
“Late September to early November are flood-prone months for us,” he said. “If we stay moist with periodic rains before then and we get another rainy season, what could that lead to?”
Ruthi said he’ll be monitoring temperatures both here and in the Corn Belt.
“Corn development is behind average due to late planting and cooler than average temperatures this summer,” he said.
If frosts arrive early, he said, that could translate into disaster for farmers growing what – for the moment, at least – is shaping up to be a bumper corn crop.