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Warm termperatures, little snow — but it wasn’t the mildest on record

By Paul Harris

If you feel that the winter that is formally due to conclude this week has been one of the warmest ever, you’re right. . . about the temperatures, if not necessarily the timing.

In Kansas, climatologists generally view winter as representing the period from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, rather than the more widely accepted Dec. 21 through March 20 season. When they try to analyze years of data, whole months simply make easier data packages to work with, state climatologist Mary Knapp explained.

That means that although the vernal equinox won’t take place until mid-week, as far as the weather folks are concerned we’ve actually been in spring for a couple of weeks. A couple of very warm, balmy weeks.

Knapp said the December through February period here had an average high temperature of 46.73 degrees, making it the 14th warmest in the history of Manhattan.

It’s only four degrees away from being the warmest on record. The winter of 1992 earns that distinction. During that year’s winter, high temperatures reached an average 49.82 degrees. But the temperatures have been getting warmer. Six of the top-15 temperatures have occurred in the last 20 years, with four of those coming in the last 12 years, including this year’s.

The overnight low during the winter of 2012 was 24 degrees, the 14th highest in the history of Manhattan, Knapp said. Like the average high temperature, the warmest overnight lows occurred in the winter of 1992. Yet unlike the average high temperature, only three of the top-15 warmest overnight lows happened in the last 20 years.

Comparing average temperatures, 2012 is the 12th warmest winter in the city’s history, with an average of 35.35. You attain the average by adding the average of overnight lows and overnight highs and dividing by two. In the last 20 years, only the winters of 1992, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2006 have been warmer. When looking at the last five average winter temperatures, this year’s average temperature is four degrees warmer than its closest competitor, the winter of 2008-2009.

Do not expect the warm temperatures to take a break any time soon.

Temperatures are expected to stay in the 70s and 80s over the next week. Friday’s morning temperature of 61 was a record, beating the previous high of 55 by six degrees.

In addition to being one of the warmest on record, this winter has also been one of the wettest.

The entire winter had a precipitation total of 5.57 inches, the ninth-highest total in Manhattan’s history.

Much of that precipitation came through a snow storm in mid-December that cancelled classes at Manhattan High School. It dropped between 1-2 inches.

There is a downside to the warmer weather, and that’s tornadoes. Although Manhattan avoided the first major tornado to roll through Kansas, the city did have a tornado touch down as recently as 2008.

The result was millions in damage to Kansas State and damage to surrounding neighborhoods. Kansas placed second on The Weather Channel’s top 10 tornado states list. The list looked at the states with the most tornadoes per 10,000 square miles between 1991-2010. Kansas has an average of 11.7 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles.

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