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2018 off to colder start than 2017, state climatologist says

  • Author: WKU News
  • Author: Friday, January 5th, 2018
2018 off to colder start than 2017, state climatologist says

Temperatures during the first week of 2018 have already been colder than those recorded in 2017, according to data from the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU.

In 2017, the lowest temperature statewide was 3 degrees below zero on Jan. 8 at the Mesonet station in Taylor County. Already in 2018, the Mesonet station in Lewis County hit a low of 9 below zero on Jan. 2.

“We are off to an unusually cold start to the year in the eastern United States and even in Kentucky,” said state climatologist Stuart Foster, director of the Kentucky Climate Center and the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU.

The Mesonet station at the WKU Farm in Bowling Green recorded a low of 1 below zero on Jan. 2 compared to 2017’s lowest temperature of 7 degrees on Jan. 8.

“When we look back at 2017, most of us will consider it to be a rather pleasant year,” Dr. Foster said. “For the most part, summer heat and humidity levels were a little lower. We had a very pleasant summer with the exception of brief periods of higher heat and humidity in the latter part of July and August.”

The highest temperature in 2017 was 97 degrees on July 22 at the Mesonet station in Hopkins County. Bowling Green also recorded its high for 2017 on that same day at 95 degrees.

However, Dr. Foster noted, 2017 ended the year in the top 10 warmest on record in Kentucky thanks to a warmer than average January and February that saw temperatures 7 degrees above normal. The unofficial average temperature for 2017 was 57.7 degrees, making it the sixth warmest. Kentucky’s warmest average temperature on record is 58.7 degrees in 1921.

The Mesonet station on Black Mountain in Harlan County recorded the year’s most precipitation with over 64 inches, while the Mesonet station at the WKU Farm recorded 55.55 inches in 2017. Statewide precipitation totals in 2017 averaged just over 50 inches, which is a little wetter than average, Dr. Foster said. The wettest year on record is 2011 with 64.34 inches.

“In 2017, precipitation was well-distributed throughout the year, but some areas experienced dry periods during the summer,” he said.

The highest wind gust recorded in 2017 was 79 mph on March 1 at the Carroll County station.

Snowfall totals for 2017 were less than an inch in Bowling Green and were low statewide.

“We started 2017 with an El Nino and as 2017 came to an end we were in a weak La Nina phase that is projected to continue into spring before dissipating,” Dr. Foster said.

Despite a cooler start to 2018 and a chance of wintry weather this weekend, he said, “we are expecting a return to more normal January conditions with an enhanced likelihood of above normal precipitation in the next six to 10 days as temperatures return to more typical January levels.”

January’s normal daily maximum temperatures range from the upper 30s across the northern and eastern section of Kentucky to the mid 40s across the southern tier of counties. Normal daily lows range from the low 20s farther north and east to the mid 20s farther south, Dr. Foster said.  

About the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU: The Kentucky Mesonet at WKU is the Commonwealth’s official source for weather and climate data. The statewide network includes 69 stations in 67 counties: Adair, Allen, Barren, Bath, Boone, Boyle, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Campbell, Carroll, Casey, Christian, Clark, Clinton, Crittenden, Cumberland, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hardin, Harlan, Harrison, Hart, Henderson, Hopkins, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, LaRue, Lawrence, Letcher, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mason, McLean, McCreary, Meade, Mercer, Metcalfe, Monroe, Morgan, Muhlenberg, Nicholas, Ohio, Oldham, Owen, Owsley, Pike, Rowan, Shelby, Simpson, Taylor, Todd, Trigg, Union and Warren. The Mesonet stations collect real-time data on temperature, precipitation, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction and transmit it to the Kentucky Climate Center at WKU every five minutes, 24 hours per day, throughout the year. The data is available online at www.kymesonet.org. State Climatologist Stuart Foster is director of the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU and the Kentucky Climate Center. Dr. Rezaul Mahmood, professor of Geography and Geology, is associate director of the Mesonet and the Kentucky Climate Center. The project was initially funded with a $2.9 million federal grant for the Kentucky Climate Center, part of WKU’s Applied Research and Technology Program. The first station was installed at the WKU Farm in May 2007. In recent years, Dr. Foster, Dr. Mahmood and others have been working to build a broad base of support across Kentucky to continue development and maintenance of the network. The 2016-2018 budget approved by the General Assembly includes $750,000 a year for the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU.

Contact: Stuart Foster, (270) 745-5983


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