The arctic chill these last few weeks was so unusual it inspired K-State researchers to launch a new monitoring tool.
K-State climatologist Mary Knapp said her team built a new online freeze monitor just for this winter weather event. She said this new model can track how many hours temperatures stay below certain thresholds, such as below freezing or below zero.
“For a two-week period, from Feb. 3-17, at 10 a.m. the total number of hours in that timeframe is 336,” Knapp said. “Of those hours, 280 of them were below the freezing mark.”
Additionally, Knapp said 138 of those 336 hours saw temperatures below 12 degrees. In a period from Thursday to Wednesday, Knapp said the freeze monitor model observed 74 hours below zero degrees.
“That’s just over three days,” Knapp said. “Out of the week, almost half of it was below zero.”
From Sunday to Wednesday, the team recorded 33 hours with temperatures of -5 degrees. Knapp said earlier versions of the freeze monitor could only view variations between a 24-hour period. She said her office realized they needed to expand beyond a 24-hour period so people could track freezing temperatures for a longer timeframe. This updated freeze monitor can be found on the K-State Mesonet website.
Manhattan on Tuesday set another new record low temperature for the date.
The temperature hit -18 degrees early in the morning, according to the Kansas Weather Data Library based at K-State. The city also saw a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date at -2 degrees.
The temperature had hit a record low on Monday as well, reaching -11 degrees. The all-time record low for Manhattan is -31 degrees, set in January 1947. Knapp said, since record-keeping began in Manhattan in 1857, this cold spell is the second-longest run where high temperatures were below 12 degrees. She said four of the top ten coldest stretches in Kansas were recorded in February. The number one coldest stretch of weather for Kansas was observed in 1983, from Dec. 18-25, with eight days at 12 degrees or below.
Knapp said the snowfall observed locally in the past week had low water content, which led to a lighter and more powdery snow. She said that snow will dissipate more quickly under direct sunshine, but it can still cause a problem.
“It can pack down and lead to an ice layer on roads and sidewalks,” Knapp said. “People need to be aware of unexpected icy conditions.”
Knapp also strongly discouraged people from walking or skating on iced-over bodies of water. She said the ice layers on rivers, lakes, and ponds is unstable, and the thickness of the ice can fluctuate depending on what is going on underneath the surface.
“You can have moving water underneath, there might be a school of fish in a certain spot, or there might be some other component which makes it look like it’s good, but really it isn’t,” Knapp said.
The weather was already looking up Wednesday with a high temperature of 19 degrees and a low of 2. Temperatures in the next week are forecast to reach as high as 55 on Tuesday, with lows hovering around the freezing mark. Knapp said this Arctic blast felt particularly painful because of milder conditions in December and January.
“Basically, we hadn’t acclimated to winter conditions until February, and this stretch gave us a brutal introduction to winter,” Knapp said.