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February 2014 Climate Summary

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Source/Author: Natalie Umphlett - High Plains Regional Climate Center 03/05/14

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February 2014 Climate Summary  

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

Temperature Summary

February 2014 was a cold month for the High Plains Region. Many locations had average temperatures which were lower or similar to January which led to large departures. Even with a mid-month warm up, average temperatures for the majority of the Region were well below normal. Much of North Dakota, northern South Dakota, portions of the Nebraska panhandle, northeastern Colorado, and northern and eastern Wyoming had temperature departures of at least 10.0 degrees F (5.6 degrees C) below normal. Interestingly, these departures were not record breaking but, some locations ranked in the top 25 coldest on record. For instance, Aberdeen, South Dakota had its 7th coldest February on record with an average temperature of 6.6 degrees F (-14.1 degrees C). Although 11.0 degrees F (6.1 degrees C) below normal, this was a far cry from the record of -7.3 degrees F (-21.8 degrees C) which occurred in 1936 (period of record 1893-2014).

It should be noted that not all areas of the Region were dealing with the bitter cold this month. Parts of southern Wyoming and western Colorado were actually above normal, with departures up to 6.0 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) in some locations.

Precipitation Summary

Precipitation was quite varied across the High Plains Region this month. Most areas of the Region had below normal precipitation with southeastern North Dakota, northeastern South Dakota, and southeastern Kansas being the driest. These areas only picked up liquid equivalent precipitation totals that were at most 25 percent of normal. Luckily, winter is a dry time of year for the plains, so these precipitation deficits were not too troublesome. Meanwhile, areas receiving above normal precipitation included western and northern Wyoming, western Colorado, and an area encompassing eastern Wyoming, northeastern Colorado, and the panhandle of Nebraska. These wetter areas all received liquid equivalent precipitation totals of at least 150 percent of normal.

February snowfall rankings indicate that some locations throughout the Region ranked in both the top 10 snowiest and least snowiest on record. Take Fargo, North Dakota and Cheyenne, Wyoming for example. Both sites receive about the same amount of snowfall in February, on average. Although several systems brought a Trace amount of snow, Fargo, North Dakota had its 8th least snowiest February on record with only 1.5 inches (4 cm). This amount was 5.5 inches (14 cm) below normal and not too far off from the record that occurred in February of 1954 with 0.3 inches (1 cm) (period of record 1885-2014). On the other end of the spectrum, Cheyenne, Wyoming had its 4th snowiest February with 19.4 inches (49 cm). This total was 11.5 inches (29 cm) above normal, but not enough to beat out the record of 23.3 inches (59 cm) which occurred back in 1995 (period of record 1883-2014). More February rankings are available on page 6 of the climate summary.

Even though much of the Region had below normal precipitation, several systems brought snow to the Rockies and improved the snowpack in both Colorado and Wyoming. While southern basins in Colorado were running 15-23 percent below average, other basins were near to above normal which brought Colorado’s statewide average at the end of February to 111 percent - up considerably from last month’s 94 percent. Meanwhile in Wyoming, the statewide snowpack at the end of the month was 132 percent of average, also up from last month’s 113 percent.

Climate Outlook

ENSO-neutral conditions continued this month and are likely to continue through 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 and the southwest corner of Wyoming. Meanwhile, a higher probability of below normal temperatures exists for most of North Dakota and northeastern South Dakota. The precipitation outlook shows there are equal chances of above, near, or below normal precipitation for the Region through May. Equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures also exist for the rest of the Region not mentioned above. 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

Typical for this time of year, 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 February, which was unchanged from January. While the percentage of area in drought remained about equal, some small areas had improvements and others had degradations. For instance, Wyoming’s last remaining D1 areas were eliminated, but D1 in eastern Kansas expanded. The extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought conditions across western Nebraska, western Kansas, and eastern Colorado remained unchanged. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released February 20th, current drought conditions are expected to persist across Colorado and southwestern Kansas through May 2014. Meanwhile, drought conditions may improve or be eliminated in other parts of Kansas and Nebraska. Further drought development is not expected
at this time.

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