Average Winter or Cooler Than Normal


Crop Production Agent



Spring is right around the corner. Wheat is starting to green-up rapidly. Lawns are looking greener, but if a dear friend is correct, it is the weeds rather than the grass making it that way. There is a perception that we have had a cooler than average winter so I thought I would investigate.

I have and always will be a proponent of the service provided by the Kansas Mesonet (www.mesonet.ksu.edu). Utilizing this service, I have looked at winters since 2010 to see how 2017-2018 may differentiate. Since I focus on agronomy, soil temperature is the mesonet metric I care most about. As such, the Parsons average five centimeter (two-inch) depth will be focused on and only from Nov. 1 through Feb. 15.

The single-day coolest two-inch soil temperature did occur this winter on Jan. 2nd with a reading of 30.1 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you compare the temperature as a departure from the average, Nov. 18, 2014, was 13 degrees cooler than average, which was the single-day greatest difference between the average readings. Just for reference sake, Dec.m13, 2015, was nearly 13 degrees warmer than the average, which was the maximum difference on the warmer comparison.

Single-day readings are probably not as significant as longer terms. To try and compare between the last eight winters, half-months were broken out. While the first half of Jan. 2018 was quite cool, it was not as cool as the same time period in 2015. However, the second half of Jan. 2018 was not nearly as relatively cool, ranking fifth out of eight. 2014 was the coolest of these dates. The cool stretch continued through the middle of Feb. in 2014 as it was also the coolest. Feb. of 2018 was third coolest of the last eight winters.

If we use a departure from average as a measure of coolness, this winter is remarkably close to average. The half-month averages only differ from the overall average by less than 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison sake, the year with the greatest difference cooler was Nov. 1, 2013, through Feb. 15, 2014. This stretch was, on average, nearly five degrees cooler than average. On the warmer side, 2016-2017 was the warmest averaging over three degrees warmer than the overall average.

It is often easier to think back and compare last winter with this winter. The winter of 2016-17 should be remembered as quite warm and this definitely shows in the data. It was warmest since 2010 with 2012 being the only close competitor.

Because it’s so easy to compare, last year’s relative warmth has probably led to the perception that this year is so cool. However, the data suggests this winter has been quite average. For more information on these meetings or if you have any questions, please call me at the office (620) 724-8233, or e-mail me at jcoltrain@ksu.edu, or visit the Wildcat Extension District website at www.wildcatdistrict.ksu.edu.