A Mild Winter Followed By Dramatic Temperature Fluctuations (4/4/2002)

By: Hayden Frank and Mike Ekster

Russell and Chanute Both Set All Time Monthly Record Low Temperatures Within The last 30 days.

The official meteorological winter runs from December through February. In Wichita, this winter went down as the 11th warmest on record. It was also a very dry winter, and the 8th driest December on record was set, which included only 0.08 inches of precipitation. In fact, not even a trace of snow fell in December, which was only the 5th time that this has occurred. Keep in mind that weather records in Wichita date back to 1888.

Besides the brief cold spell around New Years, and the snow and ice storm that struck the region at the end of January, it certainly did not feel like winter. In fact, on January 8th, the temperature at the Wichita Mid Continent Airport soared to 75 degrees. This tied the all time record high for the month which was previously set on January 22nd, 1967.

The weather pattern changed dramatically during the last week in February, allowing arctic air that had been building up in Canada to affect the region. On February 24th, the high in Wichita was 67 degrees ahead of an arctic cold front. Two days later on February 26th, the mercury only managed to reach a high of 23 degrees, with a low the following morning of 5 degrees.

The temperature would rebound back to 52 degrees on February 28th, before the coldest airmass of the season and some snowfall invaded the region. On March 2nd, the high temperature in Wichita only reached 20 degrees. This was the coldest high temperature recorded in the city, since Christmas day of 2000, when the high was 17 degrees. The temperature fell to 2 above zero on March 3rd, for the coldest temperature of the winter. Incredibly, the low would fall to 3 above zero on March 4th, but southwesterly winds allowed the temperature to warm back to 50 degrees on the same day!

Although the arctic outbreak from March 2nd through the 4th did not set any records in Wichita, it was a different story in Chanute. Weather records in Chanute date back through 1948. Until this year, the city's coldest temperature ever recorded for March was 3 above zero. However on March 3rd, the temperature fell to zero degrees, and on March 4th the temperature fell to -3. Two all time record low temperatures for the month were set on back to back days.

The wild weather continued across the region for the rest of March. The high in Wichita reached 70 degrees on the 8th, before a line of severe thunderstorms marched across the region. The temperature would fall to 19 degrees by morning, with wind gusts over 50 mph producing wind chills below zero. On March 13th, the warmest temperature of the month was recorded, with a high of 76 degrees. However, the temperature would fall to 12 degrees on March 22nd, only to rebound to 64 degrees the next day.

The warmest temperatures in many months occurred on April 1st. Salina had a high of 85 degrees, Russell was 84, Wichita was 83, and Chanute was 80 degrees. It appeared that winter finally might be over. However, another late season arctic cold front moved through the region, and by the next morning the temperature had fallen to 35 degrees in Russell. By the morning of April 3rd, the temperature fell to 20 degrees in Salina and 25 degrees in Wichita and Chanute. However, in Russell an all time record low for the month of April was established with a low of 12 above zero. This broke the all time record low of 14 for the month which was established on both April 6th, 1994 and April 12th, 1997.

This story was brought to you by the National Weather Service - Wichita, Kansas.

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