…but what Wichita has been experiencing is still a reflection of a classic weather pattern for the Great Plains this time of year.
“Typically this time of year, you get one of those ridges of high pressure that settles over the region,” said Andy Kleinsasser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita. “If something gets trapped underneath it, it’s real tough for that to exit.”
Most of the time, what gets caught under the dome of high pressure is dry air. That air bakes and bakes beneath the dome, often leading to a string of 100-degree days in late July and early August, because the jet stream is too weak to move that air out and bring cooler air in.
Imagine, if you will, an empty slow-cooker that has been left on.
This year, however, the dome has trapped humid air above ground already soaked with a year’s worth of rain. As the heat evaporates moisture from the soil, it adds to an already humid environment. The net result is a tropical climate featuring lower temperatures but persistent rains as small frontal boundaries meander through the area and trigger storms. The cycle just feeds on itself.
“When the flow aloft is so weak…it’s real tough to scour the moisture out of the atmosphere,” Kleinsasser said.
As a result, he said, Wichita and much of Kansas can expect more tropical weather and sporadic showers as August passes the midway point. Sure enough: the forecast for the next several days calls for a chance of showers in the area.