WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The official start of winter is days away, and the KSN Storm Track 3 weather team continues to monitor our chances of moisture.
The drought in Kansas has consistently deepened, and many counties are stuck in the exceptional category. It has been tough for farmers across Kansas.
The weather pattern enabling the drought is called La Niña. When ocean water off the coast of Peru is cool, this produces a chain reaction that alters the way storms are steered across the world.
Some parts of the country, conditions are guaranteed in a La Niña set-up from consistent wet weather to continued drought.
Kansas is the wild card. Depending on how that weather pattern is positioned, the Sunflower State will be on one side of the extreme or the other. True for moisture and temperatures.
This is the third year in a row for La Niña to occur, which is rare. We have only had three other times for such a “triple dip” to occur to draw data from.
La Niña happened three years in a row, from 1954 to 1957, again from 1973 to 1976 and the last time from 1998 to 2001.
It is interesting to look at the last year of each of these La Niñas where we find ourselves right now. Each winter in Wichita produced less than 10 inches of snow for the season.
Now, Wichita averages 12.7 inches of snow per year, with higher seasonal averages to the north and west.
The last two winters have both been above that from 17.4 inches of snow for the 2020 to 2021 season, followed by 16.8 inches the next year, where the lion’s share occurred during the middle of the season.
In looking at our weather pattern now, it is starting to come alive with more frequent systems every few days, and the door to another arctic swing is upon us. This could be good for quick, small snows into the New Year.
We expect anywhere from 13 to 17 inches of snow to fall over the entire season for Wichita. Overall, snowfall potential across the state will be on par with what we have seen over the last couple of years.
Temperatures will have warm spells, but overall, we will encounter stretches of brutal Arctic blasts that will drive temperatures well below average.
Signs are pointing to a weakening La Niña with hopes of transitioning to a neutral phase by February. There is a 57% chance this occurs.
One thing to add is that at the end of each of the La Niña winters in 1957, 1976 and 2001, we had notable tornadoes that made headlines in the spring.
The Ruskin Heights tornado in May 1957. The F-4 Gypsum Hills tornado in April 1976 and then the Hoisington tornado in 2001.