With the temperature dropping, the leaves falling and winter just around the corner, people are looking to the weather to find out just how cold it’s going to get.
This winter is predicted to be similar to last year, however, last year was colder and wetter, Mary Knapp, service climatologist at Kansas State, said.
This November’s outlook is predicted to be drier than normal, but the temperature will not swing far in either direction.
“This is the big difference,” Knapp said.
Although the process of predicting the weather can be hit or miss, Knapp said weekly predictions have an 80 to 90 percent accuracy, with the accuracy tapering as the time period for the prediction extends.
Along with this, certain aspects of the weather can be harder to predict than others.
“Precipitation is always the most difficult to do,” Knapp said. “It has a high variable pattern.”
For the summer season, the hardest part about predicting the weather is convective storms, which appear in one specific place and often don’t move much.
“Figuring out exactly which spot the storm’s going to develop is really hard to do,” Knapp said.
For the winter, the hardest part is precipitation and if it will lead to rain, snow or a mix. This is because there are many variables which can affect the type of precipitation.
“That can be dependent not on so much what the surface temperatures are, but what the temperatures are through the profile of the atmosphere,” Knapp said. “If you’ve got cold air aloft, you can get snow even though temperatures are in the 40’s on the ground.”
These predictions keep some students safe during the commutes to campus.
“The winter weather forecast lets me know how cautious I need to be and what I need to wear to commute everyday,” Morris Metz, sophomore in computer science, said.
These predictions can mean putting on an extra layer for some, but to agriculture professionals it’s a necessity.
“It effects the winter wheat production which is a big commercial component of the state of Kansas,” Knapp said.
The other consideration with winter weather is the effects it will have on the following flood season.
“Tuttle Creek is still above the flood level,” Knapp said. “This winter will dictate what kind of conditions we start with next spring.”
In predicting the weather, the team of climatologists, meteorologists and researchers use a variety of different technologies, including the Mesonet.
The Mesonet is a series of more than 60 automated weather stations around Kansas with plans for an additional three to be added each year.
“They measure temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction solar radiation pressure, soil temperature at two and four inches as well as soil temperature and soil moisture,” Knapp said.
The information these stations collect is put into the models to create weather predictions.