Winter's last weeks to bring spring interludes, little snow

Wondering what the rest of winter will be like in Kansas? You're in the midst of a preview, weather officials say.

Expect temperatures to be on a roller coaster for the next several weeks, fluctuating between tastes of spring and harsh reminders of winter.

"Our temperatures are going to fluctuate quite a bit," said meteorologist Eric Schminke, the climatologist for the National Weather Service branch in Wichita.

And although snow can't be ruled out completely — in fact, snow is in Wichita's forecast for Tuesday — predominant weather patterns suggest a parched winter and spring are likely for this region.

"It certainly doesn't look like we're going to get a tremendous amount of snowfall for the rest of winter," Schminke said.

Wichita has recorded a little more than 4 inches of snow so far this winter, about a quarter of its annual average.

That stands in stark contrast to locales such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, which had its snowiest December on record and reached the city's annual average for an entire winter in late January.

"We've gotten quite a bit of snow," said Tony Zaleski, a meteorologist with the weather service bureau that includes the Twin Cities area. "This is quite a bit more than we would anticipate" during a La Nina.

Ski slopes in the Colorado Rockies have received a full winter's worth of snow already, and New England residents have taken to measuring the snow on the ground in feet, not inches.

AccuWeather's forecast for the rest of winter expects a large swath of the nation to endure numerous winter storms — from the nation's heartland up through the Great Lakes and into New England, chief long-range forecaster Joe Bastardi said.

A dome of high pressure has set up over the western United States, which pushes the jet stream east as it swoops down from the arctic. Kansas is on the eastern slope of that dome.

As a result, storm systems will be moving through the Sunflower State every four or five days, Schminke said.

But those storms won't deliver much wintry precipitation, Schminke said, because there will be little moisture for them to work with.

That moisture — which typically

comes up from the Gulf of Mexico — is being pushed into the eastern third of the United States before it reaches Kansas.

"This is very typical of a moderate to strong La Nina pattern," Schminke said.

Well, yes and no.

Wichita is about 3 degrees below normal in temperatures so far this winter, Schminke said.

"We should be just a shade above normal" during a La Nina, he said.

If the forecast for the rest of winter holds, it won't be good news for farmers, landscapers and firefighters, among others.

"That has been a concern — the increased fire danger over the next two to three months," Schminke said.

All of southeast Kansas is in moderate drought right now, he said, and more of the state will get there if the dry spell persists.

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