K-State climatologist predicts relatively dry, mild winter season


As K-State students welcome the month of November, many have started to prepare to brave the cold weather of the upcoming winter. Temperatures have been getting cooler and students have broken out their winter jackets for those chilly mornings on campus.

The state of Kansas has been known to have extreme weather in the winter seasons, a characteristic that K-State climatologist Mary Knapp says is due to the state’s geographic location.

“Kansas has what is known as a continental climate,” Knapp said. “We don’t have a major body of water to provide a cooling effect, nor do we have mountains to provide similar effects.”

According to Knapp, the topography drastically alters the weather patterns of any region. Knapp said the result gives Kansas four very distinct seasons and changes in weather are very noticeable.

“We experience very sharp weather gradients in the state of Kansas, especially when we are transitioning from one season into another,” Knapp said. “That’s why we can have temperature swings as drastic as 50 degrees from the early morning to even midafternoon.”

Knapp said that in the fall and winter seasons the diurnal range, or the amount of variation in temperatures between day and night, is high. According to Knapp, increased urbanization and prevalence of manmade surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete, contributes to this phenomenon.

“The increased construction that we see today of things like new roads, new buildings and other artificial structures cause what we call the heat island effect,” Knapp said. “The heat island effect is caused by all of these artificial substances soaking up the heat during the day and releasing the heat at night, which is what causes the high diurnal range.”

Although Kansas has experienced changing trends in its weather patterns, Knapp said it was not unusual to see variations from season to season, especially in a landlocked state like Kansas. She also said the east-to-west wind patterns vary and create disparity in weather.

“Changes vary from year to year,” Knapp said. “One year we could be in for extremely mild seasons and the next year we could very well be in a for a winter like the one in 2006.”

According to Knapp, this year’s winter is predicted to be a relatively mild season. The winter is predicted to have light amounts of snow and will be a much drier season than Kansans might be used to.

“There are definite pros to having a mild winter,” Knapp said. “We won’t have to deal with shoveling driveways and will probably not have to use as much energy in the winter.”

However, less snow is not always a good thing, according to Knapp.

“At first it may seem as if warmer winters are a good thing,” Knapp said. “But there are definite repercussions to enjoying San Diego-like weather.”

Drier climates lead to negative side effects such as increased chance for fires, dehydration of vegetation and even water shortages from a lack of precipitation. The changes in the climate have a domino effect not just with things like crops, but also affect people in their daily lives.

“Kansas goes from hot to cold a lot, which really affects people’s health,” said Olivia Jorgensen, freshman in milling science and management. “It’s interesting how much something like the weather can affect your life, because cold weather leads to things like the flu, which can hurt your grades if you don’t take care of yourself.”

Jorgensen said she is preparing for the winter so that she can be ready for harsh weather.

“There are a lot of little things that you can do to make sure that you’re ready,” Jorgensen said. “I recently got new tires for my car so that I can get more traction in order to avoid things like black ice and slick surfaces.”

Andrew Bernica, sophomore in civil engineering, also had concerns about changing weather and health.

“I know it’s a lot harder for me to stay active and healthy when it’s freezing outside,” Bernica said. “Students need to make sure that they avoid getting sick and stay motivated to go to class and not a let a bit of snow stop them from doing well in school.”

Changes in weather can affect student life as well.

“I think you can definitely see a correlation between cold weather and a decline in students’ grades,” Bernica said.