High Plains Drifter

disclaimer:  "The meteorological views/forecast thinking expressed are those solely of the author of this blog
and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
therefore read and enjoy at your own risk and edification!"

April 25, 2005

A “killer” last freeze?

Filed under: General Weather & Forecasting — storm300 @ 9:51 pm

Interesting weather on the western Kansas high plains dating back to March. There has been a ton of early spring growth out here with the blossoming of an assortment of wildflowers and trees really blooming out. The wheat crop is really starting to green up now and getting taller every day. Some guys at work have some fruit trees and they are saying that the growth looks like early to mid May… a good two weeks ahead of schedule. Why? Take a look at the preliminary climatological data at Dodge City for March and April

The statistic that clearly stands out the most to me is the number of days from March 15 to current (April 25) with average temperature >= 10°F of the "climo" or in laymen’s terms "normal": 10. Contrast that with the number of days 2.

Clearly, the intrepid farmer must be on pins and needles with so much early spring growth given the climatology of western Kansas. The last 28°F (the benchmark temperature for a killing freeze) or colder morning was March 27th. The average last freeze in Dodge City is around April 20th (now, to be fair, this statistic is based on a low of 32°F). Last 28°F or colder low temperature since 1997:

2005: 25° (March 27) *so far!
2004: 24° (April 13)
2003: 24° (April 9)
2002: 23° (April 4)
2001: 25° (April 17)
2000: 27° (April 16)
1999: 24° (April 17)
1998: 25° (April 17)
1997: 20° (April 13)

Now, the reason I write about this is because historically, prolonged warmth is followed by just as dramatic reverse conditions many times. It’s just the way it is around here on the high plains. We are now amidst a very cold pattern across the central and northern plains and upper midwest. Portions of Michigan are just recovering from a nasty blizzard just a few days ago. There is still a lot of cold air bottled up in the southern Canadian prairies, and the longwave atmospheric jet stream pattern supports the intrusion of very cold canadian air into the high plains in a more or less "congested" northern stream jet pattern.

By this coming weekend, a strong cold front will be moving through the central plains, and in the wake of the next storm system this weekend (on or about April 30th), low temperatures may very well strattle that dangerous 28°F for lows over portions of western Kansas where the wheat is really starting to take off, ahead of schedule. I shudder to think what will happen to the wheat crop should there be widespread low temperatures in the upper 20s towards the weekend. -Mu

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