Most experts say the coming winter figures to be a relatively mild one across Kansas.
But meteorologist Larry Ruthi has noticed the emergence of weather patterns that could bring some hearty snows to the Sunflower State this winter.
“I’m pretty confident there will be some above-average snowfall totals” in parts of Kansas this winter, said Ruthi, the meteorologist-in-charge of the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is projecting above average temperatures for most of the Sunflower State and average precipitation for December through February.
AccuWeather, meanwhile, is anticipating a dry season with occasional shots of arctic air into Kansas.
“It looks like we’re going to have one or two nasty arctic surges this winter” into the Central Plains, said Mike Umscheid, a meteorologist with the Dodge City branch of the weather service. “Outside of those one or two, it’s probably going to be above-average temperatures.”
But Umscheid and Ruthi said the absence of a strong primary force like a potent La Nina or El Nino means there’s plenty of uncertainty about what is coming.
“This winter, we might have some competing driving forces at work that might muddy the waters a little bit,” Umscheid said.
Computer models suggest a weak La Nina is developing as the winter months approach. A La Nina is defined as cooler-than-normal temperatures in equatorial waters of the Pacific.
That pattern tends to favor a cold, snowy winter in the northern U.S. and a dry winter in the South. Kansas will be between those zones, forecasters say, meaning it will experience some of both.
A pocket of cold water stretching from Asia to the Gulf of Alaska commonly creates a high pressure ridge out West that allows arctic air to periodically plunge southeast into the Central Plains, Ruthi said.
Forecast models indicate areas of low pressure will develop in the southwest U.S. this winter — a feature that opens the door for storms to bring snow to western and central Kansas. Substantial snows often occur with those storms, he said.
“The probability is pretty good” parts of the state will see at least average snowfall, if not more, Ruthi said.
But it’s too soon to know just where in Kansas that will be, he said. Long-term winter forecasts are “inherently limited” in skill because there are so many uncertainties, he said.
Wichita averages approximately 15 inches of snow a year, though only 2 inches fell last winter. Dodge City averages 21 inches, Goodland 36 and Topeka 18.