August 2023 Climate Summary

August 2023 Climate Summary

Hidden Falls in Wyoming, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

August ended with a bang, after one of the more significant heatwaves impacted parts of the region in the final days of the month. Thousands of daily temperature records were broken, after temperatures eclipsed 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) for nearly a week. Adding to miserably high temperatures, dewpoints reached up to 84 degrees F (28.9 degrees C). The unbearable and oppressive combination led to the heat index topping out at 134 degrees F (56.7 degrees C) in Lawrence on the 20th. Schools in Kansas and Nebraska were releasing early or closing due to the dangerous conditions in the afternoon, while athletic teams in both states were either forced to practice well before sunrise or indoors. Unfortunately, there were several deaths and a spike in emergency room visits as a result of this historic heatwave.

Adding to the records broken this month, a 5.25-inch (13.34 cm) hailstone fell outside of Kirk, Colorado. Pending verification from the State Climate Extremes Committee, this would beat out a 4.83-inch (12.27 cm) stone that was recovered from Bethune in 2019. The storm would also go on to produce several tornadoes, including an EF-3 with 150 mph (241 km/h) winds.

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top) and percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for August 2023 in the High Plains region. Maps produced by the High Plains Regional Climate Center and are available at: http://hprcc.unl.edu/maps/current

Precipitation and Water Resources

The western parts of the region continued the summertime trend of above-normal precipitation. Some areas in the Dakotas and Wyoming received record to near-record precipitation, which eliminated drought conditions.

Southwestern North Dakota, northern South Dakota, and much of Wyoming recorded well above-normal precipitation this month. Although no records were broken at major locations, several outer-lying areas observed record-breaking amounts. De Smet, South Dakota received 7.28 inches (18.49 cm) of rain, breaking record set in 1893. Nearby Webster recorded the highest in the region and broke their record, with 9.93 inches (25.22 cm). 

With the end of August, summer has reached its conclusion. Precipitation amount was favorable in Wyoming, the Front Range of the Rockies, and southwestern Kansas. Cheyenne, Wyoming ranked 2nd wettest with a whopping 11.02 inches (27.99 cm) precipitation, well above their normal of 5.79 inches (14.71 cm).  In Colorado, Akron and Colorado Springs ranked 3rd wettest, while Rawlins, Wyoming ranked 3rd as well. While much of Colorado had abundant precipitation, Alamosa had its driest summer with a meager 0.56 inches (1.42 cm). 

Streamflow for the region is in decent shape, however, the eastern parts of Kansas and Nebraska continue to report below normal conditions. Several streamflow observing stations in east-central Kansas reported record lows, while others are at much below normal. In the west, several stations near Rapid City, South Dakota are at record highs.

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for August 2023. These maps are produced by HPRCC and can be found on the Current Climate Summary Maps page at: http://hprcc.unl.edu/maps/current

Temperatures

Warmer temperatures dominated much of the region but were not record-breaking despite the intense heatwave. Large portions of the region observed 2 to 4 degrees F (1.1 to 2.2 degrees C) above normal temperature, while only a few isolated locations reporting below-normal temperatures.

All walks of daily life were impacted by the historic heatwave near the end of the month. Crops were burnt to a crisp, all but sealing the fate of an already poor crop for some. Hundreds of cattle reportedly perished in Kansas and Nebraska after the heat index surpassed 120 degrees F (49 degrees C) for multiple days. Manhattan, Kansas hit 115 degrees F (46 degrees C) on the 19th, beginning one of the warmest weeks for the city. From the 19th to the 25th, the average high temperature was 108.3 degrees F (42.4 degrees C). This put a serious strain on utility providers, as the extended period of heat forced people to use air-conditioning longer than usual to cool their homes.

Drought Conditions

Drought conditions improved across the central portions of the region but continued to degrade in North Dakota and southwestern Colorado. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) was reduced by nearly 7 percent in the High Plains.

An unusual pattern this summer has led to high precipitation amounts in the western part of the region, with Wyoming benefiting the most. The entire state is drought-free for the first time since July of 2019. Kansas continued to improve, with a 10 percent reduction to extreme to exceptional drought (D3-D4) this month. Despite improvements this month, drought firmly remains entrenched in eastern Nebraska. Elsewhere in the region, other localized improvements and degradations were observed.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced as a joint effort of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Drought Mitigation
Center, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For current Drought Monitor
information, please see: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Climate Outlooks

According to the Climate Prediction Center, an El Niño Advisory has been issued and conditions are likely to increase over the coming months. 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 increased chances of Minor Flooding in central South Dakota. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be limited across the region through December.

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.  

Temperature

The three-month temperature outlook shows an increased chance of above-normal temperatures across the United States, except for the central states. Increased chances of above-normal temperatures are present in Colorado, Wyoming, and western Kansas.

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation in parts of the southwestern and northwestern United States, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the east-central part of the country. Equal chances of above-, below-, or normal precipitation are present in the High Plains.

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on August 31st indicates drought conditions will likely redevelop for much of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Station Summaries: By the Number

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