December weather summary for Kansas: Roller coaster temperatures
December started on a very warm note, but ended in a deep freeze. The statewide average temperature was 32.9 degrees F, or 1.5 degrees warmer-than-normal. The extremely cold end-of-the-month temperatures weren’t enough to offset the very warm start. The first three weeks of December all averaged above-normal, while the week ending on January 2nd averaged 12 degrees cooler-than-normal. The western divisions came closest to normal, with the West Central Division averaging 30.8 degrees F, or 0.1 degrees warmer-than-normal. The eastern divisions had the greatest departures, with the Southeast Division averaging 36.8 degrees F, or 2.7 degrees warmer-than-normal. The warmest temperature reported for December was 80 degrees F at Ashland, Clark County, on the 4th. The coldest reading was -11 degree F at Baileyville, Nemaha County, on the 28th. Records were set on both the cold and warm end of the spectrum. On the cold side, there were 90 new record low maximum temperatures, but no new record low minimum temperatures. On the warm side, there were 33 new record high maximum temperatures and 31 new record high minimums.
Moisture was limited in December. The statewide average precipitation was just 0.08 inches. That places it as the 4th driest December since 1895. December 1976 was the driest, when statewide average precipitation was just 0.05 inches. The Southwest and West Central Divisions tied for the driest division with average precipitation of zero. The South Central Division wasn’t much better with an average of just 0.01 inches. The Southeastern Division was one of the wetter divisions with an average of 0.19 inches, but it had the greatest departure from normal at -1.63 inches. The greatest precipitation total for the month at a National Weather Service Cooperative (NWS) station was 0.57 inches at Lecompton, Douglas County. For the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network (CoCoRaHS) the greatest monthly total was 0.49 inches at Garland 2.7 SW, Bourbon County. The greatest 24-hour totals were 0.57 inches at Lecompton, Douglas County (NWS) and 0.49 inches at Garland 2.7 SW, Bourbon County (CoCoRaHS). Despite the dry weather, twelve stations still managed to set daily precipitation records during the month.
Not all of the precipitation came in the form of rainfall. Many locations in the northern half of the state recorded snowfall on the 24th and 26th of December. Eleven locations set daily records for snowfall. Multiple locations tied for the greatest daily snowfall at 2.5 inches on the 24th. The greatest snowfall report for the month was 4.3 inches at Norton Dam, Norton County.
There were no severe weather reports during the month. There were several days with extreme fire danger, and also several days with wind chill warnings.
With much below-normal precipitation and warmer-than-normal temperatures, there was a steep increase in the drought conditions. Abnormally dry conditions now encompass the entire state, while the moderate drought area has increased to cover 24 percent of Kansas. Severe drought is also present, covering approximately 9 percent of the state. The January outlook has a slight chance for wetter-than-normal conditions in the eastern portion of the state, and equal chances for above- or below-normal precipitation in the rest of the state. Given the low amount of moisture that typically is seen in January, improvement in the current drought status is unlikely. With the wet summer and current dryness, increased fire danger is likely.
Mary Knapp, Weather Data Library