January 2023 Climate Summary
Foothills of eastern Wyoming, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush
After below-normal precipitation in the High Plains for most of 2022, the new year began with record-breaking wetness. Many locations in the central part of the region eclipsed or ranked in the top 10 for both precipitation and snowfall.
The winter of 2022-2023 has been very beneficial to parts of Wyoming, western Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, and northeastern Colorado. Valentine, Nebraska has already recorded their wettest and snowiest winter on record, with nearly 10 inches (25.4 cm) of snowfall and 1 inch (2.54 mm) of precipitation more than the previous record. While this wetness has impacted places affected by drought in 2022, the changes in drought conditions have been slow to improve due to the severity.
Strong winds once again reared their head, this time combining with the winter weather. Multiple times during the month, both I-80 and I-25 were closed in Wyoming due to high winds and winter storms, or a combination of both. Several large accidents took place during the month, with the largest being a 44-vehicle pileup on the 28th to the west of Laramie.
Precipitation and Water Resources
Several winter storms impacted the drought-stricken central part of the region this past month, leading to numerous precipitation records being broken. While many locations were above 200 percent of their normal precipitation, North Dakota and the northern portions of South Dakota missed out on this beneficial precipitation.
Records were not only broken but shattered in parts of Nebraska and Wyoming. In Nebraska, monthly precipitation records were eclipsed by nearly 0.50 inches (12.70 mm) in Scottsbluff and Valentine, while many other locations like North Platte and Grand Island ranked in the top 10. The state of Wyoming experienced the brunt of these storms, with Casper, Lander, Riverton, and Rawlins surpassing their record. On the opposite end of the spectrum, North Dakota missed out, and Grand Forks ranked in the top 10 driest (0.90 inches; 22.86 mm).
As of January 31st, the mountain snowpack is in great shape. Most basins are near normal, with several reporting well above-normal snowpack. The only basins slightly below normal are the South Platte in Wyoming and Arkansas in Colorado. The several rounds of winter storms this month greatly improved the drought situation, with runoff likely to be in good shape this spring.
Temperatures varied across the region, with areas ranging from 8 degrees F (4.4 degrees C) below normal to 6 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) above normal. Despite the wide fluctuation in temperature, no major locations ranked in the top 10.
Despite the overall lack of monthly records broken in the region, it was not a quiet month. Like December, January started with warmer temperatures while cooler temperatures dominated at the end. Temperatures reached 74 degrees F (23.3 degrees C) on the 2nd in Chaunte, Kansas. Not only were the temperatures well above normal, but they also lingered throughout the month. Ten days in Chanute were over 60 degrees F (15.6 degrees C) which tied for the second most in the month of January. The end of the month brought bitter temperatures throughout the region. Temperatures reached below –40 degrees F (-40 degrees C) in the mountainous parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
After back-to-back months of above-normal precipitation, drought conditions have started to finally improve. Some areas in the Dakotas and along the southern Front Range of the Rockies missed out on the much-needed precipitation, with conditions deteriorating as a result. Overall, there was a 3 percent decrease in D0 to D4 (abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions).
Although North Dakota missed out on the precipitation this past month, drought conditions improved after the near-record snowfall in December. The state experienced a 12 percent reduction in D2 (severe drought) in response, however, nearly 80 percent of the state is still engulfed in D1 (moderate drought). Wyoming greatly benefited this month, with an 11 percent reduction in D0-D4 in the state. Elsewhere in the region, other improvements and degradation were observed. According to the Climate Prediction Center’s U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook for January, drought conditions will improve in southeastern Kansas.
According to the Climate Prediction Center, La Niña conditions are likely to weaken and transition into ENSO-neutral this spring. A La Niña advisory is currently in effect. For more information, visit https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf
The National Weather Service’s long-range flood outlook indicates elevated chances of Minor Flooding in the eastern parts of Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota through the end of April. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be limited across the region through May.
The seasonal temperature and precipitation outlook presented below combine the effects of long-term trends, soil moisture, and when applicable, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). To learn more about these outlooks, please visit http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov.
The three-month temperature outlook shows an increased chance of below-normal temperatures across the northern United States, while above-normal temperatures are favored for the southern and northeastern states. Increased chances of below-normal temperatures are present in the Dakotas and the northern portion of Wyoming.
The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation across the southwestern parts of the United States and above-normal chances across the northwestern and midwestern portions. Above-normal precipitation is slightly favored in North Dakota and northwestern Wyoming. Drought-stricken Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska all are slightly favored for below-normal precipitation.
The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on January 31st indicates that improvements to drought conditions will continue in the Dakotas while deteriorating in southern Colorado.
Station Summaries: By the Number
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