Christmas decorations are popping up in the big box stores even though autumn just arrived today.
'Tis the season to savor trips to pumpkin patches and samples of apple cider at Polk’s Market before giving thought to the latest in artificial greenery.
Here in central Kansas, it will take a few days before temperatures dip to the 70-degree range, and according to one expert, it could be a very mild few months. On this first day of the new season, it will feel like summer -- hot and windy.
Autumn and cooler temperatures can’t arrive soon enough for allergy sufferers. But before there's a reprieve from pollen, Kansas State Research and Extension Service Climatologist Mary Knapp said the area will endure several hot windy days, raising a concern about grassland fires in some areas.
Despite the lingering high temperatures, this time of year brings the anticipation of relief, said Knapp. Moreover, even if temperatures heat up during the day, they generally cool off in the evenings.
Knapp offered a prediction of what kind of autumn to expect, suggesting the three-month outlook “is currently calling for an equal chance for above or below precipitation; however, in the southwest corner, it will be wetter than normal.”
Plus, the temperature outlook looks like warmer-than-normal weather through November.
Meteorologist Vanessa Pearce, with Wichita’s National Weather Service, concurs with Knapp's long-range forecast of equal parts below-normal precipitation and milder temperatures through mid-October.
However, a break is in sight and the warmer temperatures should shift with a slight chance of rain Sunday night into Monday. Those days should also bring cooler temperatures, Pearce said. While Monday temperatures could still be in the 80-degree range, by Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, temperatures will fall into the 70-degree range.
Hutchinson could see 1¼ inch of rain, according to Knapp. Tropical storms in the eastern Pacific Ocean will bring the moisture. Knapp described it as upper-level moisture feeding up into the western High Plains.
Meanwhile, as long as the current air mass stays in place, there isn’t much of a chance for an early frost, although earlier this month in Brewster -- in far western Kansas -- the temperature dipped to 32 degrees on Sept. 6.
It's the lower dew points and very dry conditions that bring colder temperatures.
“Typically, we get an earlier frost when the drier air is in place,” Knapp said. A dry air mass, she said, can change temperatures quicker than a moister air mass.
After the first frost, comes the Indian summer. People often get the term confused, assuming any warm day is an Indian summer day. But that's not correct.
“That’s technically when we have mild dry weather after a freeze,” Knapp said. “That’s my favorite time of the year, after the first freeze which does a number on the pollen and kills the bugs. It warms up nicely during the day and then cools off. People feel comfortable because of the lower humidity and they can turn off the air-conditioners.
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the term possibly stems from the early Algonquian tribe that believed the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god. Judson Hale, editor and chief of the almanac, also suggested it might go back to the earliest settlers in New England. They welcomed the arrival of cold wintry weather in late October, when they could leave their stockades unarmed, but would find themeselves vulnerable to Native Americans when it would suddenly warm up.
Hale said the warming trend generally occurs in November around St. Martin's Day, which means the end of fall harvest and a celebration of the earth's bounty. It may last a week or more.
That's likely under Knapp's predictions. Hutchinson's average first frost date is Oct. 17, while Sept. 15, 1993, is the earliest freeze on record. The latest on record was Nov. 5, 1998.