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January 2014 Climate Summary

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Source/Author: Natalie Umphlett - High Plains Regional Climate Center 02/04/14

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January 2014 Climate Summary  

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

Temperature Summary

The High Plains region experienced quite a range in temperatures this month with a combination of both warm spring-like days and bitterly cold days. For instance, in Nebraska, where snowpack was lacking, the highest temperatures of the month were generally in the mid-60s (upper teens in degrees C) and the lowest temperatures were 10-15 degrees F below zero (-23.3 to -26.1 degrees C), resulting in over a 70 degree F (38.9 degree C) temperature range for the month. Individual days also had quite the diurnal range. On January 29th, Lincoln, Nebraska had a low temperature of -5 degrees F (-20.6 degrees C) and a high temperature of 47 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) which resulted in a 52 degree F (28.9 degree C) temperature range that day alone. In the end, most of the High Plains region averaged out to near normal with above normal temperatures generally in the west and below normal temperatures in the east. Many Arctic air masses impacted the eastern half of the U.S. this month, but for the most part these air masses slid just off to the east of the region. For instance, while the far eastern edge of the region had temperature departures of 2.0-6.0 degrees F (1.1-3.3 degrees C) below normal, much of the Midwestern region had temperature departures of 6.0-10.0 degrees F (3.3-5.6 degrees C) below normal. These cold air masses were accompanied by high winds resulting in dangerously low wind chills for areas of the Dakotas and Nebraska.

Precipitation Summary

Precipitation was sparse for most of the High Plains region this month. Large areas of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota were dry with precipitation totals less than 50 percent of normal. Additionally, areas of southern and eastern Kansas, eastern and northern Nebraska, and southern South Dakota received less than 25
percent of normal precipitation. The ongoing dryness in Kansas and Colorado continued to have impacts. A midmonth dust storm in the Pueblo, Colorado area caused several accidents and closed I-25 for a portion of the day. A similar scene played out just a few days later in northwestern Kansas where a dust storm reduced visibilities, caused accidents, and closed I-70 for several hours. These are just two examples of dust storms that occurred in these drought-stricken areas this month.

Some locations within the dry areas of the region experienced quite a “snow drought” this month as even areas in the Deep South received more snowfall. For instance, Atlanta, Georgia with 2.6 inches (7 cm) had more snow this month than Omaha, Nebraska, with 1.8 inches (5 cm). Luckily, since winter is typically the driest part of the year, precipitation deficits have not increased drastically. A lack of snow cover can have its advantages, however, this year the multiple extreme cold events combined with a lack of snow cover may be a risk to the winter wheat crop in Kansas and Nebraska.

Not all areas of the region were lacking snowfall this month. Areas receiving above normal precipitation included northern Colorado along with pockets of Wyoming and North Dakota. The highest precipitation totals occurred in northern Colorado, where totals were up to 400 percent of normal. The popular ski destination of Breckenridge,
Colorado had its 3rd snowiest January on record with 49.7 inches (126 cm) of snow (period of record 1893-2014). The snowiest January in Breckenridge occurred way back in 1899 with 79.8 inches (203 cm). On average, the town receives about 23.0 inches (58 cm) of snow during the month of January. Cheyenne, Wyoming was also a snowy spot with 15.0 inches (38 cm) of snow, marking its 7th snowiest January (period of record 1883-2014). The 1980 record of 35.5 inches (90 cm) held. Other areas of the region were impacted by snowfall, especially when combined with windy conditions which were a recurring feature this month. Ground blizzards in the Dakotas were quite an issue as high winds caused blowing snow and created treacherous travel conditions. During the blizzard on January 26th for instance, both I-29 and I-94 were both closed.

Across the western U.S., this season’s snowpack has been a story of the haves and the have-nots. Generally, eastern areas have fared well, while many areas to the west have struggled due to higher than normal temperatures and drought conditions. For instance, snowpack in California and Oregon has been abysmal so far this season and reservoirs have been in severe decline. Luckily, places like northern Colorado and much of Wyoming have fared better, especially when compared to last year. By the end of the month, Wyoming’s statewide snowpack was 113 percent of average and Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 94 percent of average. In contrast, last year’s snowpack was 76 percent of average and 75 percent of average, respectively.

Climate Outlook

ENSO-neutral conditions continued this month and are likely to continue into the summer of 2014. For the next three months, the temperature outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures in portions of southern and western Colorado, far southwestern Kansas, and a tiny portion of the southwest corner of Wyoming. Meanwhile, a higher probability of below normal temperatures exists for all of North Dakota and northern parts of South Dakota. The precipitation outlook indicates that southwestern Colorado has a higher probability of below normal precipitation. No areas in the Region have an enhanced chance of above normal precipitation. Equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures and precipitation exist for the rest of the RegionThe 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 only small changes to the U.S. Drought Monitor in the High Plains region this month. Approximately 23 percent of the Region was in moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought at the end of January, which was a slight increase from 21 percent at the end of December. Degradations were present in southwestern Colorado and across Kansas. In Kansas, higher than normal temperatures combined with dry and windy conditions led to an expansion of drought there. Both areas of extreme drought (D3) expanded to the west, while areas of severe (D2) and moderate (D1) drought expanded to the east. Abnormally dry conditions (D0) also expanded eastward. By the end of the month, 63 percent of the state was in drought, which was quite a difference from last month’s 47 percent. As expected this time of the year, little change is predicted over the next few months. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released January 16th, current drought conditions are expected to persist across Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming through April 2014. Drought development is still expected in southwestern Colorado.

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