Kansas climate basics: Temperatures, precipitation, and extremes 1891-2015
Nearly 70 years ago, Snowden Flora, a meteorologist of U.S. Weather Bureau located in Kansas published a book ‘Climate of Kansas’ (Flora, 1948). This book did an excellent job of documenting the weather and climate conditions for Kansas based on instrumental observations from late nineteen century to the 1940s and put them into accurate historical perspective. Following up this work, a few scientists have published educational and/or extension bulletins and/or books detailing aspect of the Climate of Kansas. For example, Bark in 1963 published a bulletin in Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station on precipitation change in Kansas. Later, Feyerherm and Bark (1964) calculated wet and dry days in Kansas, and in the mid-1990s, Goodin et al. (1995) published the Kansas Climate and Weather Atlas.
These publications based on historical climate observations have not only advanced climate science in Kansas but more importantly they successfully helped to assist Kansas stakeholders’ in decision making. However these publications are constrained by the use of a limited set of climate stations and/or relatively short periods used for data analysis.
While global scale changes have an influence on the climate of Kansas, other factors help explain the specific conditions across the state. At the local scale, climates are affected by various factors that include topography, elevation, proximity to oceans, water in lakes and rivers, irrigation practices and other land cover changes, and latitude.
The borders of Kansas extend 400 miles from the moderate elevations and abundant precipitation conditions (more than 42 inches of annual precipitation) of the lower Missouri Basin to the High Plains lying along the eastern slope of the Rockies (with less than 20 inches of annual precipitation). The geographic factors contribute to three quite distinct climate zones of Kansas: western third, central third, and eastern third varying widely across seasons (Fig. 1).
We undertook a study to report on the basic changes of temperature and precipitation from 1895 to 2015 as well as the extreme weather records from 1891 to 2015 in Kansas.
Methods: Source of climate data
For our study, daily climate data was obtained from Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCNd) in which the U.S. component of GHCNd is an integrated version of NCEI’s (National Centers for Environmental Information) daily surface observations including the U.S. Cooperative Observer Network, the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), other observing systems, and thus represents the most complete historical record of daily data for the United States. Thirty long-term climate stations (Fig. 1) were selected across Kansas for January 1, 1891 to December 31, 2015 based on data availability and station continuity.
This daily data set is part of the U.S. historical climatology network program (Menne et al 2012). These daily data sets were subjected to high-quality control but there were still erroneous observations in Kansas stations. We first identified erroneous temperatures by using the 4th standard deviation as a threshold and then visually assessed suspected records by a spatial correlation method. We used daily precipitation observations only to assess the climate extreme records. When analyzing monthly and annual precipitation we used the monthly data sets for Kansas.
For monthly climate data, we used the US Historical Climatology Network (USHCN, version 2.5), which consists of 31 high-quality stations in Kansas. The data quality of monthly average temperatures has been rigorously examined. These 31 USHCN stations have long been commonly selected for use in evaluating climate changes on the global, regional, and state scales and thus these temperatures are considered as a reference base when evaluating climate change over 1895 to 2015.
In daily and monthly data sets we used, all missing data were retained without any filling or replacement by estimation in this study.
Results will appear in next six issues of Agronomy eUpdate
In the next six issues of the Agronomy eUpdate, we will present the results of our study. In each of those articles, we will reference this article that explains the methods we used to conduct the study. The following historical climatic factors in Kansas will be featured in the upcoming issues of this newsletter (in order):
- Temperature trends in general
- Maximum temperature records
- Minimum temperature records
- Precipitation trends in general
- Precipitation and snowfall records
- Top ten hottest, coldest, driest, and wettest years
Xiaomao Lin, State Climatologist, Department of Agronomy
John Harrington Jr., Department of Geography
Ignacio Ciampitti, Crop Production and Cropping Systems Specialist
Feyerherm, A. M., and L. D. Bark. 1964: Probabilities of sequences of wet and dry days in Kansas, Kansas Technical Bulletin.
Flora, S. 1948: Climate of Kansas (Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture). Printed by Fred Voiland, JR., State Printer, Topeka, Kansas.
Goodin, D. G., J. E. Mitchell, M. C. Knapp, and R. E. Bivens, 1995: Climate and Weather Atlas of Kansas. Education Series 12, Kansas Geological Survey, Lawrence, Kansas. 24pp.
Menne, M. J., I. Durre, B. G. Gleason, T. G. Houston, and R. S. Vose, 2012: An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network-Daily database. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 29, 897–910.