KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s a cold morning in the region as the persistent clouds that have been with us for the last 24 hours have finally nudged east. Frost is common place and today, while better than it has been, will still be a chilly day with below-average highs.

We should finally crack the average mark tomorrow, as temperatures pop into the 60s, and Thursday will initially be mild as well before a strong cold front moves through. That front will tank the temperatures in the afternoon after its passage so the 20s and 30s come right back into the area by Thursday evening with strong winds as well.

Then it stays cold again for another five days or so.


Kansas City Forecast:

Today: Mostly sunny and cool with highs in the upper 40s.

Tonight: Fair and not as cold with lows in the mid-30s.

Tomorrow: Partly cloudy, windy and warmer. Winds gusting to over 40 mph. Highs in the mid-60s.

Thursday: Periods of rain at times, with the front moving through sometime after lunch. Morning lows start in the 50s with early afternoon highs in the 60-degree range before quickly falling behind the front. There may be a few flakes of snow as well in the evening.



The interior northeast U.S. is getting raked by a big snowstorm causing power outages and dangerous travel conditions.

Out west, the next atmospheric river is hitting California with flooding and higher-elevation snows again.

Here in the middle, we’re waiting on a fast-moving disturbance to trigger a new storm that will be developing tomorrow into Thursday.

The main effect on us will be an increase in strong southerly winds helping to punch the temperatures upwards tomorrow into early Thursday. Some rain is expected with the front that will be moving towards and through the area. Not a lot, but amounts are likely are in the 1/10 to 1/2-inch range.

The main thing is a big drop in temperatures expected with the frontal passage and then the return of the cold regime for Friday into the weekend.

The blog yesterday covered the whys and what fors of all of this.

Let’s move on.

La Niña and El Niño

As many of you know, for the last few years there has been a La Niña out in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. La Niñas are cooling of the waters down towards the equator from near the coast of South America westwards into the central Pacific Ocean.

For example, let’s look at the sea water temperature anomalies out there from last year at this time:

Notice all that blue shading off the coast of South America. That is cooler-than-average water and it’s a very large area of the Pacific Ocean.

Now take a look at the same map from the past weekend.

The blue coloring is gone, and now we’re starting to see the beginning stages of some reds showing up, which indicates above-average sea water temperatures. This is the beginning stages of El Niño.

Both these events can alter the world’s weather in various ways. Moderate-to-strong El Niños have a high correlation to warmer winters in the Plains. They also typically bring warmer conditions worldwide in many cases. La Niñas bring cooler-than-average conditions worldwide, although as the climate continues to warm, the cooler trends from La Niñas have been tempered to some extent.

Before the third-year La Niña took hold, we were in El Niño conditions.

Model forecasts can struggle during this time of the year with these types for forecasts. But the general idea is the transition from one regime to the other will continue through the spring and summer months.

We are very close for now to “neutral” conditions. As you can see though, the model trends are towards the positive side of the zero line. The 0.5 line indicates weak El Niño conditions (which need to be met over the course of three straight months). From there, some models sort of keep us in “weak” conditions, while other models teeter us towards +1 or moderate conditions.

The Climate Predication Center shows this idea, with developing El Niño conditions over the summer and into the fall seasons:

The three letters for the columns at the bottom are the months. For example, we are in the middle of the first column right now, FMA (February/March/April), and so on to the last column, OND (October/November/December).

The red bars are the chances of El Niño conditions, which soar to near 60-plus % starting in the June-July-August timeframe.

There is a lot of great information about these two regimes in the ENSO blog.

You can see the transition evolve from the cooler-than-average waters to the closer to if not above-average water temperatures.

Forecasting the weather effects of these regimes though is sometimes imprecise. I thought we’d look back at the initial winter forecast from NOAA from October for precipitation for the winter months.

These are probabilities with the brown areas indicating higher chances of drier weather and the green areas with higher chances of wet weather

The western U.S. forecast, especially in California and the southwest part of the country was an abysmal failure needless to say. The forecasts for the northwest part of the US was another major failure.

Here is the reality:

Greens numbers are wetter than average, browns are drier than average.

The forecasts for parts of Texas and Florida were accurate.

From a temperature standpoint:

And the reality:

Accurate for the east coast and the deep south as well as the northern Plains, but elsewhere not so great. Although its “equal chances,” which is the large white area in the forecast map, is sort of a CYA approach, and I hate it.

I bring all this up, and I’ve written about this in the past, just because there is a La Niña or an El Niño, often it doesn’t correlate to neat tidy three-month forecasts. There are other things that can affect the weather regimes, and your playbook forecasts don’t usually work out.

What will El Niño do for us? It really remains to be seen. There are decently strong correlations that there should be a reduction, or less of a likelihood, of more than the typical (or perhaps less) tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin. There are some thoughts that the transition from La Niña to El Niño can bring a more active severe weather regime to the Plains with higher frequencies of tornadoes, especially in Kansas and Oklahoma.

These are actually strong correlations for tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Texas.

The data above is from this paper.

Full on El Niños though have a weak correlation to fewer-than-average tornadoes.


The general sense is that this will be a more active severe weather season for the Plains. How all this affects us remains to be seen. There is a persistent and nasty drought in the central Plains west of the region that could also play a role into things.

This can be important because it may create strong dry line setups towards the middle part of Kansas, or at least enhance them. And fires there would tend to affect our region, although typically weaker as they come eastwards at night, but it all depends on the various setups that get going.

With all this cold weather though, it’s not really a thing this month. We need more persistent warmth and that’s not going to happen for awhile, probably not until April sometime.

Anyway, it will be something else to talk about this spring and summer.

The feature photo is from Peggy Jane Farmer.