Forecasters: Kansas, don’t sweat over this summer

Cathy Malone and others enjoy a warm Friday afternoon at Riverside Park. (May 1, 2015)
Cathy Malone and others enjoy a warm Friday afternoon at Riverside Park. (May 1, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Remember those summers when the temperature always seemed to be 100 and you could never really cool off no matter how hard you tried?

Well, fret not.

If projections prove accurate, 2015 will be fairly typical in the Sunflower State, with seasonal temperatures and no shortage of rainfall. That would be welcome in a state still widely gripped in varying stages of drought.

“I am not convinced that the summer will be hot and dry in the Central Plains,” Larry Ruthi, meteorologist-in-charge at the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service, said in an e-mail response to questions. “I still think that rainfall will be at least average in this part of the world. Temperatures probably will be near average.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for about average temperatures for Kansas this summer and above-average precipitation for the western half of the state. This follows what the agency is predicting will be a wet May for Kansas, particularly the western half.

Mother Nature is cooperating with the agency’s projection for May, delivering several chances for rain – along with some strong thunderstorms – in the upcoming week.

May will be “active,” AccuWeather long-range forecasting meteorologist Paul Pastelok said. “Showers, thunderstorms – some severe, some downpours.

“We’ll take that early stuff.”

Pretty much all of Kansas could use the rain, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. More than 90 percent of the state is in some degree of drought, including more than two-thirds of it in moderate to extreme drought.

Parts of Sumner, Harper, Morton, Stevens, Seward and Meade counties – along the southern tier of Kansas – are in extreme drought. Sedgwick and Butler counties are among more than a quarter of the state in severe drought.

Wichita has logged 4.67 inches of rain so far this year, more than 2.5 inches below normal through the end of April, according to National Weather Service records.

Pastelok said he expects summer to vary significantly from northwest Kansas to the southeast corner of the state. Generally speaking, northwest Kansas will be warm and dry in June and July before cooler weather and more rain arrives in August.

Southeast Kansas, on the other hand, will be cool and wet the first two months of summer before turning warm and dry in August.

Wichita and the southern tier of counties should benefit from what is expected to be an active southern jet stream this summer, Pastelok said. While that will most affect Texas and Oklahoma, he said, southern Kansas will benefit from fronts that track along the northern fringes of the jet stream.

A wet May would help soften June’s temperatures, Pastelok said, because energy from the sun that would otherwise warm the air – and thus raise temperatures – will be expended on evaporation.

All of which doesn’t spare Wichita or the rest of Kansas from a taste of summer’s sizzle, forecasters say. There will still be dry spells, along with a fair share of 100-degree days.

Wichita, for instance, averages 12 triple-digit days a year. Dodge City, meanwhile, averages fewer than 11. Medicine Lodge has averaged nearly 23 days a year with temperatures in the 100s over the past 16 years.

Aaron Johnson, science and operations officer for the Dodge City branch of the weather service, said he expects early summer to be cool and damp before turning dry and hot in July. Dodge City logged just six days in the 100s last year, he said.

“The odds of that repeating are very slim,” Johnson said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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