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August 2013 Climate Summary

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Source/Author: Natalie Umphlett - High Plains Regional Climate Center 09/06/13

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August 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 first half of August was quite cool across the High Plains Region with temperature departures of 4.0-10.0 degrees F (2.2-5.6 degrees C) below normal in the Dakotas and 2.0-6.0 degrees F (1.1-3.3 degrees C) below normal in Nebraska and Kansas. During this time, a ridge of high pressure was off to the west, allowing cool, dry air to flow south from Canada. However, toward the end of the month, the ridge shifted to the east and southerly flow dominated bringing some of the hottest temperatures of the summer. For instance, Bismarck, North Dakota set a record high on the 20th with a temperature of 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C). The old record of 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) was set in 1976 (period of record 1874-2013). With lower than normal temperatures the first half of the month and higher than normal temperatures the last half, much of the Region ended the month near normal. The exceptions included central and southeastern Kansas with monthly temperature departures of 2.0-4.0 degrees F (1.1-2.2 degrees C) below normal and most of Wyoming which had temperature departures of 2.0-4.0 degrees F (1.1-2.2 degrees C) above normal.

Temperatures have played an important role this summer as many of the impacts of dryness were staved off by cooler conditions. Unlike last year, a ridge of high pressure was just to the west of most of the Plains states which resulted in cooler, drier northerly flow for the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas for much of the summer. These cooler temperatures slowed crop development - development which was already behind in many places due to either a late snowpack or wet field conditions. While crop progress was lagging, however, the cooler conditions helped with crop stress in the drier areas. By the middle of the month, there was even concern about whether or ot crops would reach maturity before the first freeze of the season. But, the heat settled in for the latter half of the month and this had mixed impacts on crops. In the areas that had adequate moisture, the heat was helpful in crop development, however in the dry areas, the heat caused stress.

Precipitation Summary

Precipitation this month was hit or miss across the High Plains Region. The spotty precipitation led to both improvements and degradations in drought conditions. Areas such as southern Kansas, western portions of the Dakotas, and northern Nebraska received up to 300 percent of normal precipitation. Meanwhile, large areas of central
Wyoming, eastern and central North Dakota, and northeastern South Dakota missed out and received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation. Embedded areas received little to no precipitation and ended the month with less than 5 percent of normal precipitation.

With the wide range in precipitation, there were stations which ranked in the top 10 driest or wettest Augusts on record. For instance, Aberdeen, South Dakota received only 0.34 inches (9 mm) of precipitation this month and ranked as the 4th driest on record (period of record 1893-2013). The driest August in Aberdeen occurred in 1947
when only 0.06 inches (2 mm) of precipitation fell. On the other end of the spectrum, Wichita, Kansas had its 2nd wettest August on record with 10.98 inches (279 mm) of precipitation, most of which occurred during the first half of the month. The record 11.96 inches (304 mm) in 2005 was able to hold on (period of record 1888-2013). The heavy precipitation in southern Kansas caused flooding in several communities including Wichita and Hutchinson.

Hit or miss precipitation was the theme this summer as precipitation was quite varied across the High Plains Region. Monsoonal moisture brought much needed precipitation to Colorado in July and August which helped alleviate some long and short term drought conditions while also decreasing fire danger. Unfortunately, the rain was a double edged sword as some locations dealt with destructive flash flooding in and around recent burn scars. Southern Kansas also dealt with flooding after a dry start to the summer. For instance, while Wichita started the summer off on the dry side, this summer went down as the 3rd wettest on record with a total of 20.50 inches (521 mm). June precipitation was only 35 percent of normal, while the combined July and August precipitation was 265 percent of normal. The record of 23.61 inches (600 mm) occurred in 2005. To the north, Lincoln, Nebraska had its 6th driest summer on record with only 4.60 inches (117 mm) of precipitation. This was only 0.40 inches (10 mm) off of last year - the 4th driest summer. The 1936 record of 2.84 inches (72 mm) held (period of record 1887-2013). The Dakotas were divided with eastern areas generally below normal and western areas above normal. Meanwhile, Wyoming was dry except for the northeast corner.

Climate Outlook

At the end of August, ENSO-neutral conditions were still present and likely to continue into the fall. For the next three months, the temperature outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures for the southwestern half of Colorado
and southwest Wyoming. Equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures exist for the rest of the Region. Meanwhile, the precipitation outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal precipitation in two areas of the country which includes some locations in the High Plains Region: eastern Kansas, eastern Nebraska, northern Wyoming, and a sliver of western North Dakota. Equal chances of above, near, or below normal precipitation exist for the rest of the Region. 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

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, there were numerous changes in drought conditions over the past month. Significant improvements were made in Kansas and Colorado where beneficial rains fell. The exceptional drought (D4) coverage in Kansas was reduced from 25 percent to about 9 percent, while the D4 coverage in Colorado went from 15 percent to 2 percent. Unfortunately, other areas of the Region did not fare as well. Cool conditions for the first half of the month gave way to hot and dry weather which caused drought conditions to emerge and/or deteriorate rapidly in parts of eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. For instance, North Dakota started the month free of drought, but ended the month with over 30 percent of the state in at least moderate drought (D1). According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released August 15th, drought conditions should improve in portions of eastern Nebraska, central Colorado, central Kansas, and eastern North Dakota. Drought conditions were expected to persist elsewhere through November 2013.

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