Kansas lies in the center of the United States, and mainly experiences three different types of climate. A small western part of the state has a semi-arid steppe (Köppen climate classification BSk) with hot summers and cold winters. The significant eastern portion has hot and humid summers and falls under the humid continental (Köppen Dfa) type. Southeastern Kansas displays a humid subtropical type (Köppen Cfa) with mild winters. Missouri in the east, Oklahoma in the south, Colorado in the west, and Nebraska in the north, border the state. Kansas has no major water bodies that influence its climate.
Kansas, the Sunflower State, has elevations that generally range from 200 meters in the east to 1232 meters in the west. The topography of the state mainly consists of vast acres of fertile farmlands in the west to green hills and forests in the east. Mount Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas, has an altitude of 1232 meters and stands just half a mile away from the Colorado border. Western Kansas lies in the great central plain of the United States. The Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas rivers, along with their tributaries, cover a major part of the state. The rain shadow effect of the Rocky Mountains and the altitude differences is having a noticeable impact on the precipitation.
Kansas has four different seasons, with occasional instances of extreme temperatures. Temperatures in the southwest frequently cross 90°F (32.2°C) in the summer. Places like Topeka and Kansas City in the east, register above 110°F (43.3°C) due to the urban heat island effect. Nights struggle to drop below 80°F (26.7°C). High humidity sends the heat index soaring in Wichita and Great Bend. Winters are cold with moderate snowfall and often experience sharp temperature changes. Nights are below freezing and average between 15°F (-9.4°C) to 25°F (-3.9°C) for the majority of the winter. Cold fronts can push temperatures to extremes below 0°F (-17.8°C). Spring is wet and warm, with a risk of thunderstorms. Fall is moderate but wet during the first half of the season.
The average snowfall ranges from 10" (254mm) to 20" (508mm) in the west to 6" (152.4mm) to 12" (304.8mm) in the east. The mountains register more than 20" (508mm) of snowfall annually. Western Kansas is dry with 18" (457.2mm) to 26" (660.4mm) of annual rainfall, while the eastern portion is relatively wetter between 36" (914.4mm) to 45" (1143mm). Kansas receives a liberal amount of sunshine and registers an average of 240 sunny days in the year. Chinook winds can keep the west warm for days with day temperatures above 80°F (26.7°C) during the winter. Frost is more frequent in the northwest than in the southern regions. Winds blow at high speeds across the vast plains as they rarely encounter high natural barriers.
Alton recorded the highest ever temperature of 121°F (49.4°C) on July 24, 1936, in Kansas, while Lebanon recorded the coldest temperature of -40°F (-40°C) on February 13, 1905.
The best time to visit Kansas
The best time to visit Kansas is from June to October that spans summer and fall. The conditions are warm and wet, but the state receives abundant sunshine, even in the presence of rainfall. Late spring in May offers comfortable, warm weather. September and October are shoulder months with fewer crowds and mild temperatures. The fall season brings brilliant colors to the landscape with scenic views as far as the eye can reach. However, tornadoes and thunderstorms frequently occur during spring and summer as Kansas lies in the Tornado Alley.
The worst time to visit Kansas
The worst time to visit Kansas is during the winter from December to February when the weather is severely cold. Cold fronts do not face significant obstructions as much of the land is plain and fertile agriculture land, especially in western Kansas. Ice storms blow occasionally and create severely cold conditions. Snowfall dominates the cold season in the mountains and closes the trails. The mercury column may dip to extreme lows below 0°F (-17.8°C) in many places. Wild temperature swings last for days together when cold and warm air masses follow each other. Few visitors like the dry winter conditions.
Tornadoes, storms, droughts, dust storms, floods, and ice storms are a threat to Kansas. Severe thunderstorms occur in spring and early summer as multiple air masses prevail over the state. Occasional droughts and dust storms occur in Western Kansas due to high wind speeds and few barriers in the form of mountain ranges. Floods are frequent during late spring and summer after heavy rainfall. Winter storms, including sporadic ice storms, bring heavy snow and high winds between December and February. Kansas is in the center of the Tornado Alley and averages 57 tornadoes annually, some of which register EF3 strength or higher.
Weather in January
January is the peak of the winter in Kansas, with freezing nights across the state. The average low temperatures are between 15°F (-9.4°C) to 22°F (-5.6°C), while the average high temperatures are in the 37°F (2.8°C) to 48°F (8.9°C) range. Topeka, the capital in northeastern Kansas registers between 20°F (-6.7°C) to 40°F (4.4°C), with significant variations in temperatures, precipitation and wind speeds. The precipitation is scanty across the state as the cold season tends to be dry. Sunny conditions are dominant with 6 hours of sunshine in many places. Snowfall is light to moderate due to the absence of moisture. Chinook winds can quickly raise the temperatures from cold to warm that even hit 80°F (26.7°C) in few areas. Arctic air masses move over the state with little to no obstruction. Northwest Kansas provides hunting grounds for those few huntsmen who seek deer, wild pheasants, quails, or coyotes during the winter. January brings few visitors to the cold prairie and is an off-season for tourism.
Weather in February
February is a cold winter month in Kansas with mild days and chilly nights. The skies are usually clear except for short periods of light rainfall that push the sun behind the clouds. Day temperatures are in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C) in much of the state. Kansas City, in eastern Kansas registers between 26°F (-3.3°C) to 45°F (7.2°C), while Dodge City in the west lies in the 23°F (-5°C) to 48°F (8.9°C) zone. February records moderate snowfall that records between 2" (50.8mm) to 5" (127mm) with an average of 18 sunny days across the state. Southwest Kansas sees bright sunshine even during the cold days of winter. The cold season occasionally brings ice storms that can be troublesome, mainly due to slippery roads and limited visibility. Pack warm clothes and dress in layers during the night, while a light sweater is sufficient during the day. Frost is common during the cold nights, as an occasional hailstorm sweeps the plains. Beware! Hailstones can be enormous in Kansas.
Weather in March
March is cold to warm at the beginning of the beautiful spring season in Kansas. Western Kansas receives moderate snowfall such as 6.8" (172.7mm) in Goodland and 5.3" (134.6mm) in Elkhart. Snowfall is light everywhere else, but there is an uptick in rainfall which averages 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) in the state. March has unpredictable weather that sees sunny conditions rapidly changed to cloudy skies with a spell of rain. Day temperatures average in the warm 55°F (12.8°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), while nights stay above the freezing mark. Wichita, in the central region, registers comfortable temperatures between 35°F (1.7°C) to 58°F (14.4°C). Early spring often sees cold fronts, and frosty nights are common. Wildflowers such as bluebells, mallows, and redbuds bloom on the hiking and biking trails that abound the state by the second half of March. Spring brings fresh air, sweet aroma of the soil, and a little wetness along with it. Warm clothes are preferable as Kansas often experience wide temperature fluctuations between day and night.
Weather in April
April brings warm temperatures to Kansas along with a significant rise in precipitation. The bright skies often give way to clouds that bring an average of 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall in the state. Snowfall is absent, barring a few places such as Colby and Goodland in the northwest where it is moderate at the most. The average high temperatures are in the warm 65°F (18.3°C) to 71°F (21.7°C) range, while nights are mild in the 35°F (1.7°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) zone. Independence, in eastern Kansas, registers average temperatures between 45°F (7.2°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) in April. Numerous lakes, creeks, and rivers gather freshwater that sees ample interest in fishing activities. The sunshine lasts above 6.5 hours, with an increase in daylight hours. The vast prairies wear a shade of green as the open landscape buzzes with the sounds of birds and animals. A sweatshirt is suitable during the warm day, while a light sweater is better for the mild evenings during April in Kansas.
Weather in May
May is a charming month in Kansas with warm temperatures at the peak of the spring season. The average high temperatures are in the warm 73°F (22.8°C) to 79°F (26.1°C) range, while the average low temperatures lie in the mild zone of 46°F (7.8°C) to 57°F (13.9°C). The precipitation picks up as eastern and central Kansas receive 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm) of rainfall, while the western part is drier between 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm). The partly cloudy skies contribute to the increase in humidity and rise in temperatures. Parks and wildlife preserves, such as the Tallgrass Prairie Natural Reserve, attract many visitors by the end of spring. Driving, biking, and hiking on the scenic byways and natural trails are popular activities in the pleasant weather as also are swimming, fishing, and hunting. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, and shorts fare better during the warm days, but a light rain jacket can keep the wetness at bay. Be alert as storms become active by May in Kansas.
Weather in June
June is the beginning of the summer and the peak tourist season in Kansas as the land bathes in brilliant sunshine. Bright blue skies occasionally give way to cloudy ones that bring the majority of the rain. The average high temperatures shoot up to a hot 88°F (31.1°C), while the average low temperatures hover in the pleasant 58°F (14.4°C) to 65°F (18.3°C) zone. Mornings quickly soak up the summer sun, while afternoons are prone to thunderstorms and rain. Tuttle Creek Lake in the central region records between 62°F (16.7°C) to 84°F (28.9°C), while the southwest registers many sunny days that cross 100°F (37.8°C). The rain brings life to the prairie that serves as the wheat granary of the United States. Eastern Kansas receives more than 6" (152.4mm) of rain and is the wettest portion of the state. Thunderstorms, including hailstorms, often strike unexpectedly in seemingly sunny conditions. Keep an eye on the weather forecast before planning outdoor trips as tornadoes are frequent in June in Kansas.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in Kansas, with average high temperatures reaching a peak of 94°F (34.4°C). Temperatures in Dodge City, Garden City, and Liberal in the west often cross 100°F (37.8°C). The heat index can assume life-threatening proportions with high humidity like that in the south-central areas of Wichita, Salina, and Russell. June has at least 25 sunny days with cloudy skies that bring 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall. The heat demands light summer clothing as crowds throng near the numerous lakes, creeks, and rivers. Clear blue skies and vast acres of prairies extend as far as the eye can see. Avoid roaming in the afternoons under the scorching sun. Afternoons provide the perfect time to visit the museums and relax in the shade. Wind direction is from the south with speeds that cross 10 miles per hour. Watch out for dust storms in July during dry periods at the peak of summer in Kansas.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month with moderate rainfall and high humidity in Kansas. Chanute in the east averages between 67°F (19.4°C) to 90°F (32.2°C), while Liberal in the west is between 64°F (17.8°C) to 92°F (33.3°C). The average temperatures across the state are in the hot 61°F (16.1°C) to 92°F (33.3°C) range with an average of 24 days of brilliant sunshine. Rainfall is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) in the majority of the state, and the driest parts lie towards the west of Route 83. The eastern part of the state is milder than the west and attracts tourists with many historic sites, trails, and natural reserves. August nights provide fair weather for camping and backpacking trips. The growing season is in full swing as the rain aids in the production of wheat, sorghum, cotton, and soybean. Thunderstorms are common, and tornadoes often sweep the land of the Great Plains. Wear light summer clothes, broad-brimmed hats, and sun goggles during the day in August in Kansas.
Weather in September
September marks the beginning of the wonderful fall season in Kansas with comfortable temperatures and beautiful colors. The average high temperatures in early autumn are in the warm 78°F (25.6°C) to 84°F (28.9°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the mild 50°F (10°C) to 61°F (16.1°C) range. September registers an average of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) of rainfall in the state with 6 to 8 wet days. Leavenworth, in eastern Kansas, has comfortable temperatures between 57°F (13.9°C) to 79°F (26.1°C), while Hutchinson in central Kansas remains between 56°F (13.3°C) to 82°F (27.8°C). The leaves change colors to display spectacular hues of crimson, orange, yellow, and gold. The scenic byways running through the Glacial Hills in the northeast and Flint Hills in the east are perfect for experiencing the fall foliage. Nature is at its fiery best in the fall across the rolling hills. Autumn is the time of harvest and festivities in the fair weather. The storm activity ceases significantly by mid-September, which is one of the best times to visit Kansas.
Weather in October
October lies in the middle of the fall season in Kansas with warm days and mild nights. The average high temperatures are in the comfortable 60°F (15.6°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range, while the nights are mild to cold with average low temperatures in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C) range. Colby in the northeast has one of the coldest temperatures that average between 37°F (2.8°C) to 68°F (20°C). The precipitation decreases to record an average of 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm) across the state. The days are sunny, but the autumn sun is less intense, and the heat is bearable with a drop in humidity. Fall is an excellent time to drive through the scenic byways with the wind in the face during the breezy evenings. Fall foliage is at its peak by mid-October in the majority of the state. A light jacket is handy for the breezy evenings. October is an excellent time to visit Kansas with pleasant temperatures, a decrease in rainfall, breezy evenings, and beautiful fall colors.
Weather in November
November sees a drop in temperatures at the end of the autumn season in Kansas. The average high temperatures are in the warm range of 52°F (11.1°C) to 58°F (14.4°C), while the average low temperatures are between a freezing 25°F (-3.9°C) to cold 37°F (2.8°C). Western Kansas sees nights between 25°F (-3.9°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) in places like Colby, Liberal, Goodland, and Dodge City. Nights are above the freezing mark in the east in Kansas City, Chanute, Olathe, Lawrence, and Topeka. The sunshine is moderate, and the days become short. The average rainfall in the state is to the tune of 1" (25.4mm) to 3" (76.2mm), but the first flurries of snow arrive by November. The western and central regions record 2" (50.8mm) to 4" (101.6mm) of snowfall, while the east receives a negligible amount of snow. Cold fronts invade the plains by the second half of November and cause a further drop in temperatures. The fall foliage is over by the end of the month as the cold takes charge of the landscape. Tourist footfall decreases by the end of the fall season with incidences of severe weather. It is a prudent idea to leave Kansas by the end of November as the winter season can bring extreme cold to the American Midwest.
Weather in December
December is the time when Kansas gets cold, and frost is a regular occurrence at night. Winter storms are prevalent in many parts of the state, driven by high-speed winds and snow. Rainfall is negligible, but snowfall is moderate in the range of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm). The average high temperatures are in the mild 39°F (3.9°C) to 47°F (8.3°C) range, while the average low temperatures are below the freezing zone, between 15°F (-9.4°C) and 25°F (-3.9°C). Garden City in the west, at 18°F (-7.8°C), is colder than Great Bend in the central region at 23°F (-5°C). Sunny days with clear skies are standard in Kansas winters, as are cold days with white clouds. Regular frost ends the growing season, but there is plenty to celebrate during Christmas after a good harvest. Layered clothing is best after sunset as chilly winds blow strongly without encountering any natural barriers. Kansas is a sunshine state where even December registers 18 sunny days.