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April 2014 Climate Summary

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

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April 2014 Climate Summary  

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

Temperature Summary

April 2014 was on the cooler side for the High Plains Region, however temperature departures were not near as extreme as February or March. The largest departures occurred in North Dakota where much of the state was 4.0-6.0 degrees F (2.2-3.3 degrees C) below normal. While the northern half of South Dakota ranged from 2.0-4.0 degrees F (1.1-2.2 degrees C) below normal, the rest of the Region was generally near normal with departures up to 2.0 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) above/below normal. Although North Dakota had the largest departures, these were not record breaking. Grand Forks had an average temperature of 37.3 degrees F (2.9 degrees C), which was 4.7 degrees F (2.6 degrees C) below normal, and only ranked as the 13th coolest April on record (period of record 1893-2014).

By the end of the month, spring field work was well underway. Below normal temperatures limited fieldwork in North Dakota as soil temperatures were too cool. As a result, all spring crops were behind the 5-year average, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Cooler temperatures also hindered work in Colorado, as did high winds and scattered showers. Some crops were even damaged by the high winds which caused dust storms and uprooted winter wheat. Dust storms and freezing temperatures were a concern for the declining Kansas winter wheat crop as well.

Precipitation Summary

April precipitation was varied across the High Plains Region. Above normal precipitation fell across much of North Dakota and areas to the east such as Minnesota and Iowa. While only a few pockets of above normal precipitation fell in the other states in the Region, large areas had precipitation totals which were at best 50 percent of normal. Notable areas included southeastern South Dakota, southern and western Kansas, southern and central Wyoming, and areas near the Nebraska/Colorado border. A few embedded areas even received as little as 25 percent of normal precipitation. Wichita, Kansas was one of these dry locations and had its 6th driest April on record with 0.53 inches (13 mm) of precipitation (period of record 1888-2014). This amount was only 20 percent of normal and just shy of the 1963 record of 0.22 inches (6 mm). After the second wettest August on record last year, precipitation has been lacking in the Wichita area. Water year to date precipitation (October-April) was only at 6.26 inches (159 mm), marking the 6th driest for this time period. On average, Wichita receives 12.70 inches (323 mm) from October to April. Interestingly, this has also been the driest start to a year in Wichita since the Dust Bowl year of 1936.

Although parts of the plains were dry, the mountain snowpack continued to be above average in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The typical snowpack accumulation season has ended and snowmelt is underway. Widespread significant flooding due to mountain snowpack melting is not expected at this time. Some minor to moderate flooding could occur, however.

The severe storm season was off to a slow start this year. According to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), as of April 21st, this year had been the least active tornado year in at least 60 years. The end of the month was quite active, however as large areas of the southern U.S. were impacted by a severe weather outbreak. Some areas of the High Plains Region were impacted as well. In all, there were 169 storm reports for the Region during April (this includes reports of tornadoes, hail, and wind). For comparison, 141 storm reports came in last April and 396 reports came in the previous year.

Climate Outlook

Just like last month, ENSO-neutral conditions continued during April; however there is a 50 percent chance that El Niño conditions will develop later this year in the summer or fall. For the next three months, the temperature outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures across southern portions of Colorado and Kansas. A higher probability of below normal temperatures exists for all of North Dakota and a small area of northern South Dakota. Areas in between have equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures. The precipitation outlook shows a higher probability of above normal precipitation in the southwest U.S. with the highest probability in the Four Corners region. Equal chances of above, near, or below normal precipitation exist for the remainder of the High Plains 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

In the High Plains Region, there were only slight changes to the U.S. Drought Monitor this month as there were both improvements and degradations. By the end of the month, the total area in moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought increased from 29 to 33 percent. In eastern Colorado, conditions worsened and D1 spread northward while extreme drought (D3) expanded eastward. Additionally, severe drought (D2) developed in the southwestern corner of the state. Meanwhile, D2 in Kansas spread eastward and two new areas of D3 emerged in the central part of the state. Nebraska had slight improvements where ample precipitation fell, but overall, there was a decline in conditions as D1 spread throughout the eastern part of the state. Abnormally dry conditions were reduced or eliminated in the Dakotas and Wyoming. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released April 17th, current drought conditions are expected to persist across southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas through July. Meanwhile, drought conditions may improve or be eliminated in other parts of Kansas and Nebraska.

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