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Weird Winter Weather Could Take a Toll on Lawrence

In March of 1960, 29.3 inches of snow fell in the Kansas City area.

“I can remember as a kid, 40 to 50 years ago, it wouldn’t be too unusual to have a real, real heavy snow and long periods of cold weather at 20 degrees in March,” educational coordinator at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center Roger Boyd said.

But Boyd knows times have changed.

“If that would happen now, there would be a severe impact.”

Currently, northeast Kansas snowfalls have totaled around 5.9 inches, which is good for the fourth lowest seasonal snowfall in history. The month of March contributed around 1.3 inches to keep the 2016-17 season from placing third behind seasons like 2011-12 (3.9 inches) and 1922-23 (4.5 inches).

But it’s not just the seasonal snowfall and totals in March that are abnormal.

According to the High Plains Regional Climate Center, which includes Kansas, between 1895 and 2012, average winter temperatures have increased by 2.2 degrees fahrenheit. The hardest hit area is the minimum average temperature.

“I think what we would see as the long-term pattern is we’re definitely seeing higher and higher average temperatures,” Boyd said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Midwest is likely to see warmer, wetter conditions in winter and spring, and hotter, dryer conditions in summer. With warmer weather, air quality is reduced and allergens increase.

While crops could return a higher than expected yield at first, the warm weather could shift to lead a decreasing yields of crops in the long term.

Boyd is hopeful April won’t fall victim to these trends for the sake of fragile environments like the Baker Wetlands. But he knows all too well the impact they’ve already had on some migratory bird and insect species, as well as the vulnerable nature of the land.