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Human and Natural Hazard Impacts: Snow Day?

The Problem

The Superindent announced that Blue Valley students will have zero snow days to make up in the 2015-16 school year.  This was not much of a winter as we saw only 5″ of snow and that was not all at once and not much of it came to the southern part of the Kansas City metro area.  For those of you who don't enjoy the cold weather and nuisance of snowfall, that's great news!  But for the snow bunnies dreaming of snow ball fights, snow forts, sledding, and hot chocolate it was a disappointment!  The Northeast saw a lot of snow for the past two winters.

Gary Lezak, a local meteorologist, always has a snowfall prediction. Our teacher shared this with us in class and asked us to make our own predictions.  Gary Lezak said, "For Kansas City, we are forecasting above average temperatures this winter. Rainfall will also be above average with some flooding rains possible. It will be cold enough for one big ice storm, and five to ten snowstorms that will bring our total to 23” this season."

Obviously, Gary's prediction didn't even come close to being accurate this year!  So what's up KC?  Is it global warming? Are winters changing in terms of precipitation patterns here in the KC area? How is global warming different from climatic changes that have occurred throughout the earth's history?  I wonder if this is a coincidence or is this the new normal?  I wonder if this can be attributed to global warming?  Do El Niño or La Niña have something to do with this?  I wonder if our winter precipitation patterns are changing here in the KC area?  I wonder if past weather patterns throughout history can compare to our current weather?


Average total snowfall and days with fresh snow in Kansas City
Days InchesCenti­metres
2.5 January 4.1 10.4
2.1 February 3.2 8.1
0.6 March 0.9 2.3
0.1 April 0.2 0.5
0.1 October 0.3 0.8
0.4 November 0.3 0.8
2.5 December 4.4 11.2
8.3 Year 13.4 34.0

How Much Snow Normally Accumulates in Kansas City

About one in seven winter days at Kansas City has at least an inch of snow on the ground.

For a day in December, in January and in February, on average, the snow covering Kansas City gets to five or more inches deep.

Most years, the snowpack never tops ten inches. The snow is most likely to accumulate that much in January.

All the numbers are averages, based on weather data gathered from 1981 to 2010 at the Kansas City Downtown Airport.


Kansas City:

Average winter snowfall (Oct-Apr, 1981-2010): 18.8"

Warmest winter season (Dec-Feb): 37.1 degrees (1991-1992)
Coldest winter season (Dec-Feb): 21.5 degrees (1978-1979)
Coldest temperature ever recorded: -23 degrees on Dec. 22 and 23, 1989





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Climate Central

Database Articles

Science in Context

Iditarod Lacking Snow. (2016, March 2). New York Times, p. B14(L).

Johnson, K. (2016, March 7). As Alaska Warms, the Iditarod Adapts. New York Times, p. A9(L).

Shrinking snow and ice cover. (2011). The Science Teacher, 78(3), 16.

 Maney, K. (2015, November 27). We Can Turn Down the Earth's Thermostat, But Do We Dare? If you follow the technology's trend lines, a weather channel-changer seems possible, but dangerous. Newsweek, 165(19).

Browning, L. (2015, June 12). Baked Alaska: A Snowless Climate Threatens the Survival of the Yupik People of Togiak; The Yupik people of Togiak are watching their world melt away from under their feet. Newsweek, 164(23).


(2016, March 10). The implications of living in a much warmer climate. Caledon Enterprise (ON).

Ziska, L., Knowlton, K., Rogers, C., Dalan, D., Tierney, N., Elder, M. A., & ... Frenz, D. (2011). Recent warming by latitude associated with increased length of ragweed pollen season in central North America. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America108(10), 4248-4251. doi:10.1073/pnas.1014107108



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EBSCO databases

Provided by the Kansas State Library, this resource includes: Student Research Center; EBSCOhost Research Databases; Consumer Health Complete; Literary Reference Center;Auto Repair Reference Center;Novelist Plus; and Small Business Reference Center.

I wonder

I wonder how many times in the past Kansas City has had this little snow? Does El Niño or La Niña have something to do with our precipiation or our temperatures?  Does heat factor into the creation of precipitation?  How do global wind patterns and ocean currents impact the amount of snow an area receives? How does being landlocked as opposed to living on a coast impact the amount of snow we receive?  I wonder if our location has anything to do with our weather patterns?

What is your hypothesis?  What are your variables?

Global Warming


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Ask an Expert

 Gary Lezak KSHB      


 Bryan Busby KMBC 

Mike Thompson Fox4KC

US Dept of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Kansas City/Pleasant Hill, MO
1803 North 7 Highway
Pleasant Hill, MO 64080-9421