Commentary by Matt Sittel, K-State Research and Extension news service
Manhattan, KS- While college students move into dormitories – and younger children head to school — wearing t-shirts and shorts, they likely will be a bit more bundled up come the end of the fall semester.
Average temperatures drop by 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit from August to December, and rain in August becomes snow by December.
Using data from 1991-2020, let’s take a look at some facts and figures that illustrate the change of seasons in the Sunflower State, keying in on some of the state’s college towns.
In the first days of school, temperatures in Kansas range from a high of 91 in Dodge City to lows of 59 in Goodland.
By the time students are taking mid-term exams in October, those temps are coming down to highs of 72 in Dodge City and Wichita, to lows of 38 in Goodland and mid-40s in Manhattan, Emporia and Salina.
And by semester’s end, the lowest of the average highs is in Lawrence (41 F), while Goodland’s average low gets to a frigid 17 F. In addition to late night studies, students will need a nice warm jacket to get through Finals Week.
Goodland tends to get cold sooner than many of the state’s other college towns. There’s a 64% chance that the first frost of the season will occur in Goodland by Oct. 1. Emporia and Wichita have just a 12% and 11% chance of frost by that same date.
By mid-October, nearly every college town in Kansas has a better than 80% chance of a first frost. Wichita is the outlier; during the 30 years studied, Wichita’s chances of frost by Oct. 16 was just 46%, and doesn’t climb to over 80% until Halloween – when everyone else is at or near 100%.
Everyone thinks it snows by Halloween, right? On average, there’s a very small chance that is true. In Goodland, the average snowfall between 1991-2020 (from Aug. 22 through Halloween) was 2.2 inches, while in other Kansas college towns, the average snowfall was just a few tenths of an inch.
Thanksgiving break is more typical for snowfall, ranging from 5.5 inches in Goodland to 2.0 inches in Dodge City, 1.9 inches in Salina and 1.7 inches in Hays. Only Emporia (0.7 inches) doesn’t top at least an inch of snowfall, on average.
White Christmas? You can normally expect that in Kansas’ college towns. Goodland gets an average 10.7 inches from Aug. 22 through late December, while Salina and Dodge are at 6.0, Manhattan at 5.9, and Hays at 5.0. Lawrence and Wichita have an average snowfall at 4.1 by the Christmas season, and Emporia is at 3.8.
Historical weather information in Kansas is available online from the Kansas Mesonet, which has its headquarters on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan.
Matt Sittel is an assistant state climatologist with the Kansas Mesonet. He can be reached at 785-532-1087 or email@example.com.