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April 2013 Climate Summary

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Source/Author: Natalie Umphlett - High Plains Regional Climate Center 05/05/13

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April 2013 Climate Summary  

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

Temperature Summary

The cooler conditions of March continued into April across the High Plains Region. Average temperatures were well below normal for the majority of the Region and in stark contrast to last year when many locations were in the top ten warmest on record. A rough southwest to northeast temperature gradient was apparent with average temperatures which were near normal across southwest portions of Colorado and Wyoming and up to 15.0 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) below normal in North Dakota and northeastern South Dakota.

Even with a late month warm-up, these cooler conditions caused locations in each state to be ranked in the top ten coolest Aprils on record. These cooler conditions were also accompanied by wintry weather and some locations ranked in both the top ten coolest and snowiest Aprils on record. Aberdeen, South Dakota had its coolest and 2nd snowiest April on record. The average temperature in Aberdeen was 34.9 degrees F (1.6 degrees C) which was 9.5 degrees F (5.3 degrees C) below normal (period of record 1893-2013). The old record occurred in 1950 with an average temperature of 36.0 degrees F (2.2 degrees C). More records occurred in Rapid City, South Dakota which had both the coolest and snowiest April. The average temperature was only 36.7 degrees F (2.6 degrees C) in Rapid City, and at 8.3 degrees F (4.6 degrees C) below normal, this temperature was able to easily beat the old record of 38.0 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) also set in 1950 (period of record 1942-2013).

Precipitation Summary

The High Plains Region experienced a wide range of weather conditions this April including rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain, thunderstorms (including thundersnow and thundersleet), hail, high winds, dust storms, and tornadoes. This active pattern was welcomed as it brought many chances for precipitation to the drought-stricken areas and widespread improvements were made in regards to the drought. By the end of the month, April precipitation totals were quite varied, however, and most locations were within about 25 percent of normal precipitation. Areas which received at least 150 percent of normal precipitation included eastern Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, central North Dakota, central Colorado, and pockets of Wyoming and South Dakota. Meanwhile, northern and southwestern North Dakota, west-central Nebraska, western Kansas, and eastern Colorado received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation.

For some locations, even ones that came short of normal, this was the most precipitation received in the past year. For instance, North Platte, Nebraska only had 1.27 inches (32 mm) of liquid equivalent precipitation this month which was 56 percent of normal. However, this was the most precipitation since April of last year. Unfortunately, North Platte was still 13.00 inches (330 mm) below normal for that 12-month period. Even with increases in precipitation, drought impacts were still being realized. According to the USDA, the winter wheat crops in Colorado and Kansas were struggling due to the prolonged dryness with much of the crop rating in the poor to very poor categories (54 percent in Colorado and 39 percent in Kansas). Also, in Colorado, the combination of drought and strong winds contributed to a dust storm that closed I-25 and covered farmland with sand and dirt. While dust storms are not necessarily uncommon in Colorado, this dust storm had quite an impact on local farmers in Lincoln County, located in the east-central part of the state. According to 9News in Denver, a dust storm on April 14th blew sand and dirt on more than 100,000 acres of land. Some places had an estimated 6-8 inches of sand and dirt covering the fields. Local ranchers indicated that it may take years to rebuild the soil.

While drought impacts were still an issue in many parts, other areas of the Region made significant improvements. There were stations in each state which ranked in the top 10 snowiest Aprils on record as many storm systems affected the Region. Bismarck, North Dakota blasted through records this month as an historic snowstorm dumped 17.3 inches (44 cm) of snow on April 14th. This snow total went down as the new record 1-day snowfall for not just April, but for any calendar day of the year. Ultimately, with 21.8 inches (55 cm), Bismarck set a new monthly snowfall total beating the old record of 18.7 inches (47 cm) set in 1984 (period of record 1886-2013). Rapid City, South Dakota also had its snowiest April on record with 43.4 inches (110 cm). This snowfall total crushed the old record of 30.6 inches (78 cm) set back in 1970 (period of record 1942-2013). Remarkably, both Bismarck and Rapid City had set their new April snowfall records by the middle of the month. For more snowfall rankings, please see the table below.

The abundance of snow improved the snowpack situation in the Rockies significantly, which had previously been lagging. By the end of the month, the Colorado statewide snowpack was 80 percent of average, which was up from last month’s 75 percent. Conditions improved greatly in Wyoming, with the month ending at 98 percent of average, up considerably from last month’s 82 percent of average. Many communities along the northern part of the Front Range racked up hefty snow totals this month. Boulder, Colorado had its snowiest April on record with 47.6 inches (121 cm) and beat the old record by over 3.0 inches (8 cm). The old record of 44.0 inches (112 cm) was set in 1957 (period of record 1893-2013).

Climate Outlook

At the end of April, ENSO-neutral conditions were still present and likely to continue into summer. For the next three months, the temperature outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures for most of the High Plains Region including Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, the majority of Wyoming, and the southern half of South Dakota. Meanwhile, the precipitation outlook indicates a higher probability of below normal precipitation for Colorado, western Kansas, western Nebraska, and all but northeast corner of Wyoming. Equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures and precipitation exist for the rest of the High Plains Region. In addition, no part of the country has a higher probability for below normal temperatures or above normal precipitation. The seasonal outlooks combine the effects of long-term trends, soil moisture, and when applicable, the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO). More information about these forecasts can be found here.

Drought Watch

There were significant changes to the U.S. Drought Monitor over the past month as the combination of cool and wet conditions allowed for many improvements to be made. At the end of April, approximately 85 percent of the Region was in moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought - down from 91 percent at the end of last month. All D4 conditions in South Dakota and Wyoming were erased leaving D3 or severe drought conditions (D2) in its place. Overall, Nebraska had the largest improvements and went from 76 percent in D4 to only 8 percent. Extreme drought conditions were also trimmed back in South Dakota, Wyoming, eastern Nebraska, and northern Colorado. Unfortunately, conditions worsened slightly in southeastern Colorado and western Kansas where D4 expanded. Kansas now has the largest percentage of D4 coverage at just under 20 percent. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released April 18th, drought conditions were expected to improve in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and eastern portions of Colorado and Wyoming. Drought was expected to persist elsewhere through July 2013.

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