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August 2012 Climate Summary

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Source/Author: Natalie Umphlett - High Plains Regional Climate Center 09/05/12

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August 2012 Climate Summary  

For a printable version of the climate summary which includes more figures, data tables, and state summaries, click here

Temperature Summary

For the first time since February of this year, there were widespread below normal monthly temperatures in the High Plains Region. Much of North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, and southern Nebraska had average temperatures which were up to 3.0 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) below normal. Interestingly, some of these areas have not had below normal monthly averages since last year, as the cooler areas in February were mainly in Colorado, Wyoming, and western Nebraska. For instance, the last time the majority of South Dakota had below normal temperatures was September of last year. Meanwhile, areas of Colorado, Wyoming, southern South Dakota, and western and central Nebraska had temperatures which were above normal. Departures were not high or low enough to break monthly records. However, there were still many daily records as temperatures dipped in the middle of the month and soared at the end of the month. One example was Academy 2 NE, South Dakota, which had a high temperature of 113 degrees F (45.0 degrees C) on the 30th. This beat out the old record of 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees C) and was the second highest August temperature on record (period of record 1898-2012). The highest August temperature of 115 degrees F (46.1 degrees C) was set on August 4, 1934. On the other end of the spectrum, there were also low temperature records. Lincoln, Nebraska had a low temperature of 44 degrees F (6.7 degrees C) on August 17th, which beat out the previous record of 46 degrees F (7.8 degrees C), set in 1943.

August was a busy month for producers as drought damaged crops had to be chopped for silage or baled for hay in Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas. The lack of feed and water caused the culling of herds to continue in Nebraska and Kansas. According to the USDA, by the end of the month 85 percent of all corn, 82 percent of all soybeans, 63 percent of all hay acreage, and 72 percent of all cattle were within an area experiencing drought conditions in the United States. This was a slight improvement from last month.

Precipitation Summary

August was yet another dry month for the majority of the High Plains Region. A large expanse of the Region including Wyoming, eastern Colorado, the eastern and western sides of Kansas, most of Nebraska, central and southern South Dakota, and pockets of North Dakota had precipitation totals which were at the most 50 percent of normal. There were even areas of Wyoming, northeast Colorado, and the panhandle of Nebraska which received less than 5 percent of normal precipitation. Because of the lack of precipitation, there were new records set again this month. For instance  Scottsbluff, Nebraska received no measurable precipitation and set a new record for driest August. The old record of 0.04 inches (1 mm) was set in 2001 (period of record 1893-2012). On average, Scottsbluff receives 1.30 inches (33 mm) of precipitation in August. Another location which had its driest August on record was Colorado Springs, Colorado which only received 0.12 inches (3 mm) of precipitation. This beat out the old record of 0.15 inches (4 mm) set in 1962 (period of record 1894-2012).

The only areas of the Region which received much needed rainfall were pockets of central North Dakota, central and northeastern Kansas, far southeastern Nebraska, and a few pockets of western Colorado. These areas had precipitation totals ranging from 110 percent of normal to 300 percent of normal. The heavy rainfall improved drought conditions, however, at this point many of the crops will not benefit from the precipitation.

Climate Outlook

ENSO-neutral conditions continue and El Niño conditions are likely to develop this fall. For the next three months, the temperature outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures for the entire High Plains Region, with the highest probability being in the eastern portions of the Dakotas. The precipitation outlook indicates equal chances of above, near, or below normal precipitation for the entire High Plains Region. More information about these forecasts can be found here.

Drought Watch

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought conditions worsened yet again this month across the High Plains Region. By the end of August, about 88 percent of the Region was under moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought, with nearly 15 percent
of the Region in the D4 designation. In contrast, at the end of last month, only 4 percent of the Region was in D4. Over the past month, the D4 areas that expanded include an area in central Nebraska that grew westward across the state and even into northeastern Colorado, an area in western Kansas that expanded all the way across the middle of the state to the eastern border, and an area in eastern Colorado that grew to include most of the southeastern corner of the state. By the end of the month over half the state of Kansas was in D4 drought. Extreme drought conditions (D3) also expanded in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. In addition, there was only a little over 1 percent of the Region that did not have any sort of drought or abnormally dry conditions (D0). According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released August 16th, drought conditions were expected to improve in North Dakota, southwestern Colorado, and the northern half of South Dakota. Other areas of drought in the Region were expected to persist. Luckily, no new areas of drought were expected to develop.

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