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Hot, dry year as Hays closes in on records

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

It wasn't enough to shatter records, but 2012 won't be forgotten easily.

Here's why:

* With an average temperature of 57.39 degrees, it was the third warmest year on record. Temperatures have been recorded since 1902, spanning 111 years.

* With only 14.39 inches of precipitation, it was the sixth driest year on record. Only 1956, 1894, 1895, 1952 and 1988, in that order, were drier.

* Temperatures during 2012 never fell below zero, the first time since 1899 when those records first started being maintained. Normally, below-zero readings would be seen at least seven times in a year.

* Precipitation from snow amounted to just 0.44 of an inch. While it's no record, it is sharply below the average of 3.11 inches.

* Snowfall during 2012 amounted to just 3.8 inches. That's less than the long-term average for December alone, and 15.37 inches below the annual average of 19.17 inches.

That's just a sampling of the treasure trove of weather data collected each year at the Kansas State University Agricultural Research Center. Some of it hearkens back to the days when Fort Hays was an active military fort.

It is an official weather observation site for the National Weather Service, although it's not a station that provides live data.

Weather information also is maintained at Goodland, where the National Weather Service is located, and at Hill City.

Goodland came perilously close to setting a new all-time record for dryness, but a light shower and snow at the end of the year broke that possibility.

Instead, 2012 ended with 9.59 inches of precipitation, 0.4 of an inch more than the all-time record set in 1956. It was the third driest year on record, falling 10.07 of an inch below normal.

With an average temperature of 54.8 degrees, it was the fourth warmest year on record. Only 1934, 1938 and 1939 were warmer.

At Hill City, normal rainfall would amount to 22.92 inches. This year, only 10.48 inches were recorded -- 46 percent of normal.

At the Northwest Kansas Research and Extension Service near Colby, total precipitation last year hit 12.27 inches. That's well below the normal of 20.65 inches.

The average high temperature in Colby stood at 71.3 degrees, sharply higher than the normal of 65.6 degrees.

It's the Hays weather data that's most elaborate, however.

There were just 61 precipitation events, days with measurable moisture. Only 10 of those were a half-inch or more.

November was the driest month, with nothing at all recorded. Still, that's not the first time, as there have been five other Novembers without any precipitation.

Where Hays excelled -- if you can call it that -- came from record high temperatures in 2012.

There were 12 days when daytime highs matched or exceeded previous highs.

They are: March 12, a new high of 84 degrees; March 13, a high of 87; March 16, a new high of 85; May 4, a high of 93, tying a record set in 1943; June 23, a high of 107, matching the previous record from 1952; May 26, a high of 99, tying the previous high in 1912; June 26, a high of 113, matching that set in 1936; June 27, a new high of 114; June 28, a new high of 111; July 29, a high of 108, matching a high set in 1940; July 30, a new high of 110 and Nov. 25, a new high of 75.

For comparison, the highest temperature ever recorded in Hays was 117 degrees, set on July 13, 1934.

Even as warm as it was, there were two new record lows set in 2012.

The first was Aug. 17, when temperatures dipped to 51 degrees. The second was Aug. 20, when the temperature dropped to 48 degrees.