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May 2014 Climate Summary

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Source/Author: Natalie Umphlett - High Plains Regional Climate Center 06/06/14

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May 2014 Climate Summary  

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

Temperature Summary

May 2014 average temperatures in the High Plains Region were near normal, within 2.0 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) above or below normal. These near normal average temperatures hid the extremes that occurred during the month. For instance, Wichita, Kansas went from near record cold of 35 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) on the 2nd to record warmth with 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C) on the 4th. That turned out to be the earliest 100 degree F (37.8 degree C) day on record and completely smashed the old daily record of 94 degrees F (34.4 degrees C) set back in 1963 (period of record 1888-2014). Wichita was actually one of the few warmer locations in the Region and managed to have its 7th warmest May on record with an average temperature of 70.0 degrees F (21.1 degrees C).

These large swings in temperature put even more stress on the already struggling winter wheat crop in Kansas. Although the final assessment on the late freeze event is not yet available, by the end of the month 61 percent of the winter wheat crop in Kansas was in poor to very poor condition according to NASS. There have even been reports that crop insurance payments have already begun to be disbursed, which is quite early. Meanwhile, cooler air and soil temperatures have slowed planting in some northern areas of the Region. This delayed planting and development has some producers concerned for this year’s harvest.

Precipitation Summary

The majority of the High Plains Region was dry this month with the driest portions including central Wyoming, eastern Kansas, pockets of the Dakotas, and a swath stretching from eastern Colorado, through much of Kansas, and north into Nebraska. These areas received at most 50 percent of normal precipitation. This lack of precipitation caused some locations to be ranked in the top 10 driest Mays on record. Grand Island, Nebraska had its 5th driest May with 0.74 inches (19 mm) which was 3.67 inches (93 mm) below normal, or 17 percent of normal precipitation (period of record 1896-2014). The driest May on record occurred in 1934 with 0.34 inches (9 mm). Topeka, Kansas also ranked in the top 10 driest Mays on record. With only 1.63 inches (41 mm), or 33 percent of normal, this ranked as the 9th driest May for Topeka. The record of 0.41 inches (10 mm) was set in 1966 (period of record
1887-2014). The main exception to the dryness was a swath of above normal precipitation running from western to northern Colorado into the panhandle of Nebraska ending in central South Dakota. Parts of North Dakota also received above normal precipitation. One example was Dickinson, North Dakota which had its 2nd wettest May on record with 6.18 inches (157 mm). This amount bumped last year’s 6.03 inches (153 mm) down to the number 3 spot, but was not enough to beat out the 6.52 inches (166 mm) received in 1962 (period of record 1949-2014).

One of the notable storm systems of the month was the Mother’s Day storm which brought accumulating snowfall to the west and severe weather to the east. The highest snowfall amounts ranged between 1 and 2 feet (30-61 cm) in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. Travel delays were numerous as portions of I-25 and I-70 in Colorado closed and portions of I-80 were closed in Wyoming and Nebraska. Numerous tornadoes, high winds, and large hail were reported in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, and Iowa. According to the Omaha/Valley National Weather Service Office, one supercell produced 12 tornadoes along a 119 mile stretch in eastern Nebraska. Even
one of the HPRCC’s Automated Weather Data Network (AWDN) stations had a close call with the Beaver Crossing tornado. A 5-second wind gust of 119 mph (192 km/hr) was recorded at the station and damage to trees and center pivots occurred nearby.

Climate Outlook

ENSO-neutral conditions continued this month, however the chances for the development of El Niño conditions is increasing and will exceed 65% by the end of summer. For the next three months, the temperature outlook indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures across southeastern Colorado and southern Kansas. A higher probability of below normal temperatures exists for North Dakota, the majority of South Dakota, and northeastern Wyoming. Meanwhile, the precipitation outlook shows a higher probability of above normal precipitation for a large area of the Region including Wyoming, most of Colorado, northwestern Kansas, and the majority of Nebraska and South Dakota. All other areas in the Region have equal chances of above, near, or below normal temperatures and 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

Overall, there were only slight changes to the U.S. Drought Monitor in the High Plains Region this month. Although some areas had improvements and others had degradations, the areas experiencing moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought remained at about 33 percent. The most significant changes occurred in Kansas where there was a 20 percent increase in extreme drought conditions (D3). Exceptional drought conditions (D4) were also introduced across the southern border of the state. In Nebraska, D1 and D2 were trimmed in areas receiving ample precipitation, but a new area of D3 emerged in the central part of the state. D1 also expanded northward into southeastern South Dakota. A small area of D3 also expanded to include all of
southeastern Colorado. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released May 15th, current drought conditions are expected to persist or intensify across far southeastern Colorado and southern Kansas through August. Meanwhile, drought
conditions may improve or be eliminated in other parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

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