Transcribed from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Climate.—Kansas is situated between 37° and 40° north latitude, and 94° 38' and 102° 2' west longitude. The elevation above sea level ranges from 700 feet in the southeastern part of Montgomery county to 4,100 feet in the northwestern part of Greeley county. Owing to its location and altitude, the state escapes the severe winters of those farther north, and the enervating heat of the summers of the south. Consequently, the climate of Kansas is mild, and under average conditions is without tropical heat or arctic cold. The air is dry, invigorating and particularly wholesome in western Kansas, and extremes of temperature are usually of short duration.

Beween[sic] the northern and southern parts of the state there is a difference of several degrees of temperature both summer and winter. The following statistics, covering a period of ten years, were taken from the United States weather bureau reports. The mean winter temperature ranges from 28.5° in the northern counties to 34° in the southern. The mean summer temperature ranges from 74° in the northwest counties to 79° in the southeastern part of the state. Over a large portion of Kansas the highest temperature recorded exceeds 110°, the highest being 115° in 1860, 1894 and 1896. The lowest temperatures recorded range from 15° below zero in Morton county to 32° below zero in Finney. The date of the last killing frost in spring ranges from April 6, in the extreme southeastern part of the state to May 5. in the northwest. The first killing frost of autumn ranges from Sept. 30 in the northwest to Oct. 25 in the southeast. The average number of growing days between these killing frosts ranges from 150 in the northwest counties to 200 in the southeastern.

According to Indian tradition the Kaw river remained frozen for a month during the winter of 1796-7. "All streams remained frozen for thirty suns," while Jan., 1908, according to the United States weather bureau, was the warmest January that Kansas ever knew. The prevailing direction of the wind is from the north and northwest during the winter. During March it is from the southwest and for the rest of the year generally from the south. The source of rain supply is mainly from the Gulf of Mexico. The average winter precipitation which includes rainfall and water from melted snows, ranges from 1.19 inches in the extreme northwest to 6.53 in the extreme southeast. The average precipitation for spring ranges from 4 inches in the western part of the state to 12 inches in the east. In the summer the range is 8 to 14 inches for the same localities, and for the fall from 15 to 44 inches. The average number of rainy days per year increases from 49 in the extreme west to 99 in the eastern part of the state. The annual average number of days with thunder storms ranges from less than 20 in the extreme southwest to over 40 in the eastern counties. The total annual precipitation in the dryest recorded year, ranges from less than 10 inches in the western counties to 26 inches in the eastern, and in the wettest year from 21.16 in the west to 58.30 in the east. The average snow fall ranges from 8.6 inches in Montgomery county to 25.6 in Atchison, and in the western part from 18.1 inches in Thomas county to 21.2 in Morton. McPherson has the heaviest average snow fall (24 inches) for the central part.

Where the rainfall in Kansas is deficient it is due more to the lack of the necessary conditions of the soil, vegetation and local evaporation than to the lack of humidity in the aerial currents, as the same influences which bring the Mississippi Valley states their supply of moisture also bring it to Kansas. The conditions necessary to bring this moisture from the atmosphere are deeply plowed ground, well cultivated fields, growing crops, large areas of trees, ponds of water, etc. As most of these conditions are lacking in western Kansas, the scarcity of moisture in that section may be easily accounted for. The rainfall is graduated from east to west in proportion to the natural fertility of the soil and the area of cultivated land.

Commencing at the Rocky mountains and extending eastward almost to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, lay the "Great American Desert" or "Staked Plains" of some sixty years ago. At that time, this new fertile region was almost as much of a desert as are the barren wastes of New Mexico and Arizona today. Then all of Kansas lying west of Topeka was what the Kansas of the present is west of the 100th meridian. Immense herds of buffalo tramped the earth hard, and with the sun baking process it underwent, the soil became almost impervious to water. Prairie fires added to the hardening process, by burning the scanty vegetation. The earth's surface exposed to the sun's fierce rays became heated and by radiation gave its temperature to the atmosphere. Hot winds were the result. The desert gave these winds birth, and only the desert could nourish them. When civilization introduced elements foreign to their nature they became so much milder when compared with those of earlier years, that the present generation has no conception of this terror of the first pioneers. Then the principal rain supply of the summer months was through the medium of thunder storms of great severity. Precipitation took place at a high level and was very rapid, slow gentle rains being extremely rare.

For years farming in Kansas was carried on under the greatest difficulty, and few people believed that the frontier would ever extend much beyond the longitude of Topeka. But the pioneers were not daunted, step by step, mile by mile, year by year, they advanced upon the "Great Desert," until now the state is under cultivation practically to, and in some districts beyond, the 100th meridian. The plow has done its work. Millions of acres of water shedding sod have been broken, and by this stirring of the soil it has been placed in condition to conserve the rainfall that formerly was wasted. Tree claims have been set out, fruit trees have been planted, and these groves and orchards prove valuable accessories to the cultivated soil in increasing the humidity of the atmosphere, and a more general diffusion of moisture has followed. As the tide of emigration flowed westward the blue stemmed grass has always been found to follow closely, and has passed the 100th meridian. The sand hills of Reno, Barton, Pawnee and Edwards counties are rapidly becoming grass covered.

The mirage, due to light reflected through several strata of air of different densities, lifting into view objects lying below this horizon, was common in the western counties in early days, and is still seen occasionally on the hot dry days of summer, when there is little radiation.

The hot winds, already mentioned, always make vegetation wilt, and when they move with great velocity, burn the vegetation. Some of the most destructive winds have occurred when the soil was saturated with moisture. Wheat in the milk and corn just beginning to tassel are especially liable to injury by these winds. When there is sufficient moisture in the ground the plants usually recover at night, but when continuous hot winds have dried the ground the crops are often completely destroyed and seldom show more than a partial recovery. The leaves of the trees become so dry that they crumble when touched. But as previously stated, the hot winds have become toned down, and a few years more of civilization will probably cause them to disappear entirely. The average velocity of the Kansas wind, according to the government weather bureau reports, is 8.5 miles per hour. Stor ms, such as the "blizzards" of the northwest seldom occur, and cyclones, notwithstanding the common belief to the contrary, are equally uncommon.

Pages 367-370 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.