Missouri River Basin Fall Quarterly Impacts and Outlooks

Regional Significant Events for September – November 2023

Highlights for the Basin

Eastern Kansas was pummeled by a snow storm on Thanksgiving weekend.
A number of cities like Wichita received more snow from this single event than all of last winter. It was the largest November snowstorm for Wichita since 1906.


Very heavy rains fell across portions of Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota
in October. Record monthly single-day rainfall fell on October 12th near Ewing,
NE (7.39”) and the following day near Fairfax, SD (5.90”). On October 25th over 9” fell near Osage City, KS, but only minor flooding was reported due to very dry conditions.


Arctic air and gusty winds sent a shock through the Basin around Halloween.
Subzero temperatures were recorded in the northern Basin, while single-digit
lows reached all the way to Kansas.

Regional Climate Overview for September – November 2023

Temperature and Precipitation Anomalies

Warmer temperatures dominated the region, with cooler temperatures arriving
for short periods at the end of October and November. Minimum temperatures were well above normal throughout the entire region this fall. Two heatwaves impacted the region on Labor Day weekend and the first week of October, breaking hundreds of records in the process.


After above-normal precipitation in September and October in parts of the
basin, conditions dried out significantly in November. Multiple counties along
the Nebraska and South Dakota border ranked in the top five wettest this fall
due to the heavy rains in October. To the south, several counties in eastern
Colorado and western Kansas ranked in the top five driest.

Departure from Normal Temperature (°F) (top)
and Percent of Normal Precipitation (bottom) for the Fall of 2023

Changes in Drought Conditions

The map above shows the areas of increasing and decreasing drought.
Green shading indicates where drought improved and yellow shading shows were conditions degraded over the fall. Drought conditions improved up to four categories this fall across northern Montana and North Dakota, while dryness intensified in northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri.

September 5 to December 5, 2023

Regional Impacts for September – November 2023

Agriculture

Warm and dry conditions led to optimal conditions for harvest. A hard freeze with record low temperatures at the end of October finally ended the growing season for most crops. The same conditions that were conducive to harvest were not ideal for winter wheat, with 32 percent rated poor to very poor in Kansas. Heavy precipitation in October greatly improved soil moisture in South Dakota and northern Wyoming. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the dryness that has plagued portions of Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska this fall has left soils dry heading into the winter months.

Transportation

The winter storms on the weekends of Halloween and Thanksgiving greatly impacted travel conditions throughout the basin. Travel across Colorado was greatly hampered on October 29th after up to 10 inches of snow fell. Over 100 flights were canceled and over 700 delays at Denver International Airport. Two people died same day due to traffic accidents along I-80 in Nebraska. Heavy snow on the 24th and 25th of November led to chaos for those traveling on the holiday weekend. 1500 flights were delayed in Denver, while hundreds of wrecks were reported throughout the lower Missouri River basin.

People skating on a frozen lake in Montana, credit Michael Downey
Glacier National Park in Montana, credit Gannon Rush
Snowfall in western Kansas, credit Gannon Rush

Regional Outlook for April – June 2023

According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the outlook for the upcoming
season follows a typical El Niño pattern with warmer temperatures and below-normal precipitation favored across the northern Basin. Above-normal precipitation is slightly favored in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, which would help replenish dry soils in those states. The rest of the Basin has
equal chances of above, below, and near-normal precipitation.

The continued dry weather and potential for lack of snowfall can lead to an
elevated risk of wildfires and impact wheat growth this winter. An ENSO blog
from NOAA Climate details the impact that El Niño can have on snowfall this
winter.

Temperature

EC: Equal chances of above, near, or below normal
A: Above normal, B: Below normal

Precipitation

EC: Equal chances of above, near, or below normal
A: Above normal, B: Below normal

MO River Basin Partners

High Plains Regional Climate Center
www.hprcc.unl.edu

National Drought Mitigation Center
http://drought.unl.edu/
National Integrated Drought Information System
https://www.drought.gov/
NOAA NCEI
www.ncdc.noaa.gov
NOAA NWS – Central Region
www.weather.gov/crh
NOAA NWS Climate Prediction Center
www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov
NOAA NWS Missouri Basin River Forecast Center
www.weather.gov/mbrfc
American Association of State Climatologists
https://www.stateclimate.org/
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/rcc/
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
https://www.usbr.gov/
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
www.nrcs.usda.gov
USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub
www.climatehubs.oce.usda.gov
Bureau of Indian Affairs – Great Plains Region
www.bia.gov/regional-offices/great-plains

Download PDF below

2023 Annual Climate Summary

Rain approaching Glacier National Park in Montana. Photo courtesy of Gannon Rush.

Regional Breakdown

Climate-wise, 2023 was the opposite of 2022, which was marked by dryness and extreme drought. This year brought ample to plentiful precipitation to much of the region, which greatly improved drought conditions. While the precipitation was beneficial to mitigate drought conditions, it was too late to help some crops to recover. In August, a blistering heatwave further impacted all facets of life including agriculture. This heatwave led to a warm end to the year, culminating in a record-breaking December.

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (left) and percent of normal precipitation (right) for 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

Precipitation came in spurts this year, with extreme amounts of precipitation occurring during several months. Snowfall was abundant in South Dakota, Wyoming, and northern Nebraska to start the year, but the rest of the region was rather dry. An onslaught of storms in May dumped generous amounts of rain across eastern Colorado, northwestern Kansas, and southwestern Nebraska, greatly improving drought conditions. Rain continued to pour into July for Colorado and Wyoming, with record wetness. Throughout the rest of the year, precipitation was not as widespread, however, those that did receive some were given generous amounts. Several locations recorded their wettest year, thanks to heavy snowfall at the beginning of the year and heavy rainfall towards the end. Compared to the extreme dryness that characterized 2022, this year leaves the region in much better shape heading into 2024.

Severe weather, particularly wind and hail, ravaged Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming this year. Colorado recorded their highest number of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings issued in a year (period of record 2002-2023), with 1366. The Dakotas were the opposite, with a near-record low number of warnings issued. Hail wreaked havoc in Colorado, with two storms among the most notable. A hailstorm on June 21st interrupted a concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater outside of Denver, with nearly 100 people injured after failing to heed warnings. The other storm occurred on August 8th, when a 5.25-inch (13.34 cm) hailstone fell outside of Kirk. After verification by the State Climate Extremes Committee, this would officially beat out the previous record of 4.83 inches (12.27 cm) from a stone from Bethune in 2019. In Kansas, a 115 mph (185 km/h) wind gust was recorded outside of Wallace. Combined with 2.5-inch (6.35 cm) hail, severe damage was reported from anything in the path of the deadly storm.

The following locations had notable precipitation records during 2023: 

  • Chadron, Nebraska observed its wettest year on record, with 23.85 inches (60.58 cm) of precipitation beating out the previous record of 21.60 in (54.86 cm) set in 1947.
  • Record monthly single-day rainfall occurred in October. On October 12th, 7.39 inches (18.77 cm) fell near Ewing, Nebraska establishing the new single-day record. Then on the following day, 5.90 inches (14.99 cm) fell outside of Fairfax, South Dakota, also setting a new record.
  • A CoCoRaHS observer southwest of Osage City, Kansas reported 9.35 inch (23.75 cm) of rain on October 25th. This would be the second highest single-day precipitation total for the month in Kansas.
  • Culbertson, located in western Nebraska recorded their driest year in 2022, with 10.87 inches (27.61 cm) of precipitation. On the other hand, in May 2023, nearly the same amount of precipitation [10.65 inches (27.05 cm)] was recorded in Culbertson. To the east, near McCook, CoCoRaHS observers reported totals up to 14 inches (35.56 cm) precipitation.
  • Eastern Kansas was buried under a pile of snow on Thanksgiving weekend. Several cities including Wichita received more snow from this single event than last winter. It was also the largest November snowstorm for Wichita since 1906.
Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal
precipitation in inches (bottom) for 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

Temperature

Overall, temperatures this year were slightly above normal for most of the region. Wyoming and parts of Colorado observed below normal temperature due to a very cool start of the year. Temperatures were mild for the rest of the region outside of May and June, before the entire region heated up from August until the end of the year. Multiple heatwaves impacted the region during the late summer and well into the fall, with temperatures surpassing 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) in Kansas during November. A dangerous and unbearable heatwave combined with extremely high dewpoints in August led to heat indices topping 130 degrees F (54.4 degrees C) in the southern Plains.

The following locations had notable temperature records during 2023:

  • The heat index reached 134 degrees F (56.7 degrees C) on August 20th in the midst of a historic heatwave. Dew points would reach up to 84 degrees F (28.9 degrees C) in some places, creating very unhealthy conditions.   
  • John Redmond Lake (outside of Emporia, Kansas) observed its warmest year on record with an average temperature of 59.8 degrees F (15.4 degrees C). To the north, Concordia narrowly missed their record warm year.
  • From January to March, the average temperature in Lander, Wyoming was 16.4 degrees F (-8.7 degrees C). It was their coldest start to a year on record.
  • Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota recorded their warmest June on record, which came on the heels of near-record warmth in May. This was an extreme contrast to the beginning of the year when below-normal temperatures dominated the state.
  • Grand Junction, Colorado tied their all-time warmest temperature of 107 degrees F (41.7 degrees C) on July 17th. A few days later, Lawerence, Kansas recorded its warmest July low temperature of 84 degrees F (28.9 degrees C) on the 27th.
  • December was very warm in the region, with temperatures over 12 degrees F (6.7 degrees C) above normal in the northern portions. Monthly records were broken all the way from North Dakota to Nebraska, while the rest of the region ranked in the top 10 warmest.

Drought Conditions

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, overall drought coverage dramatically improved across the region. Heavy precipitation occurred this year primarily over areas plagued by drought coming into 2023.

Undoubtedly, the biggest winner in 2023 was Kansas. Entering the year, close to 57 percent of the state was under extreme to exceptional drought (D3-D4) conditions. That number is down to 3 percent heading into 2024, a significant and much overdue improvement. While much of the state is still dealing with drought or abnormally dry (D0) conditions, the outlook is much more optimistic heading into the new year.

Nebraska also improved significantly this year, however, the drought that does remain is intense. In the beginning of January, 99.75 percent of the state was affected by moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4). By the end of the year, it was reduced by 73 percent with only the southeastern part of the state remaining under significant drought.  

The Dakotas also experienced noticeable improvements, with both states experiencing a 60 percent reduction in D1-D4 conditions over the year. South Dakota is also primed to have further reductions to drought conditions early in the new year after a winter storm impacted the state around Christmas.

In a reversal from last year, drought conditions are in manageable and decent condition heading into 2024. Overall, 21 percent of the High Plains was in D1-D4 at the end of the year, the lowest percentage since May 2020. 

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/.

Noteworthy Events

Record-Breaking Hailstone in Colorado: Capping off an unusually active severe weather season in Colorado was the recovery and examination of a 5.25-inch (13.34 cm) hailstone on August 8th in Yuma County. A storm chaser reported significant hail near the town of Kirk and managed to recover a stone larger than a softball. With a caliper on-hand, he was able to photograph some measurements, but some melting occurred before it could be officially measured. The local National Weather Service office in Goodland, Kansas convened the State Climate Extremes Committee to verify if it would break the recent record of 4.83 inches (12.27 cm) in 2019. Despite the melting during transportation, the initial measurements and photographs were sufficient evidence to certify that it would become the new record for the state.

Drought Improvement Across the Region: The outlook for the multi-year drought in the High Plains seemed very bleak coming into 2023, with the previous year leaving Kansas and Nebraska in a dire situation. After multiple months of torrential rainfall, both states experienced significant improvements. D3-D4 was nearly eradicated in Kansas, however, a small patch does remain in Nebraska. The region as a whole is at the lowest percentage of drought conditions in nearly three years.

Agriculture Struggled Again: Despite the beneficial and significant amounts of precipitation, it was too late to improve winter wheat yields. Kansas harvested its lowest bushel count since 1966, with numerous fields abandoned due to the dry fall in 2022. Corn production was aided by the rains, however, the heatwave in August burnt many stalks to a crisp. North Dakota also recorded its largest cattle anthrax outbreak since 2005 due to a dry to suddenly wet pattern. The mild fall this year allowed the disease to linger, with a case reported in December.

Late August Heatwave: A rather unusual and deadly heatwave impacted the lower Plains in August. Temperatures reached up to 115 degrees F (46.1 degrees C) in Manhattan, Kansas and the average high for the week was 108 degrees F (42.2 degrees C).  The presence of dewpoints up to 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) made this heatwave so unusual. Over 1000 temperature records were broken, with significant disruptions to daily life. Record power usage was recorded, placing a serious strain on utility providers. Schools in Kansas and Nebraska canceled classes or released students early to limit heat exposure outside or on buses.

Platte River in central Nebraska. (Credit Gannon Rush)
Hazy sunset in Nebraska due to lingering smoke. (Credit Doug Kluck)
Light showers over eastern Wyoming. (Credit Gavin Rush)

Station Summaries: By the Numbers

Download the PDF Below:

December 2023 Climate Summary

December 2023 Climate Summary

Sunrise over Flathead Lake in Montana, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

December ended in a similar fashion like both October and November. Exceptionally warm temperatures dominated the region, with a cold front pushing through late in the month but unable to prevent record warmth.  

Temperatures were scalding hot in the Dakotas, with some locations breaking their previous monthly record by up to 6 degrees F (3.3 degrees C). Dozens of monthly records were broken, while every state in the region had locations ranking in the top 10 after nearly the entire High Plains was 3 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) or more above normal.  

It was a dry month for much of the region but this condition changed with the front that pushed through around Christmas. Blizzard warnings were issued from northwestern Kansas into South Dakota on Christmas day, with 50 mph (81 km/h) winds and a combination of ice, sleet, and snow on one of the busier travel days for many. Interstate 80 was closed from Lexington, Nebraska to the Wyoming border, with hundreds of wrecks occurring. Interstate 70 in Kansas was also closed from Goodland to Denver, Colorado due to safety concerns.  

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top) and percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for December 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 situation was gloomy heading towards the end of December, with much of the region still reeling from record to near-record dryness in November. However, conditions improved with portions of South Dakota receiving over 400 percent of their normal precipitation by the end of the month.  

Precipitation totals were abysmal in parts of the Dakotas up until the 22nd. The maximum amount recorded the previous month in both states was just over an inch (2.54 cm) and December was not proving any better. Things rapidly turned around, with several days of beneficial precipitation in the form of rain and snow. Fargo, North Dakota recorded their wettest December, with 3.00 inches (7.62 cm) of precipitation. Across the border in South Dakota, Sisseton crushed their previous record of 2.03 inches (5.16 cm) and observed a whopping 3.61 inches (9.17 cm) of precipitation. Nearby Milbank recorded an even higher value of 4.31 inches (10.95 cm), just shy of the all-time December precipitation record for the state. There were also plentiful amounts of snow, with 16.0 inches (40.64 cm) reported near the town of Gregory.  

The western parts of the Plains were not as lucky this month, with portions of Wyoming reporting no precipitation. Shoshoni and Basin reported no precipitation to tie their driest month on record, while Casper and Sheridan both ranked 2nd driest after minimal amounts. Casper also recorded their lowest December snowfall, with only 1 inch (2.54 mm) of snow reported. 

Mountain snowpack continued to be below normal for many of the basins in the west. Snow water equivalent (SWE) is below 70 percent in for much of Colorado and Wyoming at the beginning of January. Streamflow remained well-below normal in the eastern portions of Kansas and Nebraska, with record lows reported.  

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for December 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

To say December was unseasonably warm would be an understatement. Parts of the Dakotas were a record-breaking 15 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) above normal, even with a significant cool-down occurring.   

Fargo, North Dakota not only broke their monthly record but also tied the record for the warmest December for the state. The average temperature was 31.5 degrees (-0.3 degrees C), easily breaking the previous record of 25.9 degrees F (-3.4 degrees C) and the normal of 15.7 degrees F (-9.1 degrees C). Elsewhere in the state and in South Dakota, just about every major city observed record warmth.  

Outside of the Dakotas, record to near-record warmth impacted every state. Norfolk, Nebraska surpassed their record, while McCook tied for 2nd. Further to the west, Sheridan, Wyoming ranked 2nd as well. Rounding out the region, Colorado and Kansas both had at least one major location rank in the top 5 warmest.   

Drought Conditions

Drought conditions improved this month, even though the amount of abnormal dryness (D0) slightly increased. The heavy snowfall in Kansas towards the end of November was noticeable, with large improvements in the state. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) conditions were reduced by over 3 percent.   

Eastern Kansas greatly benefited from the heavy snow, with severe to exceptional drought (D2-D4) reduced by 23 percent. Currently, a little over 19 percent of the state is experiencing D2-D4, the lowest percentage since the beginning of February 2022. The dryness in Wyoming has begun to take its toll, with D0 increasing by nearly 14 percent this month. D0 was also increased by nearly 10 percent in South Dakota, however, the heavy precipitation towards the end of December should lead to improvements. 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 is likely to be a moderate to strong event. 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 low chances of flooding through March. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be normal across the region through April.

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 northern United States. Increased chances of above-normal temperatures are present in the Dakotas and Wyoming.

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation in the northern part of the country and the Great Lakes, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the southeastern and west-central United States. Increased chances of below-normal precipitation are present in parts of North Dakota and Wyoming, while above-normal precipitation is favored for Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Equal chances of above-, below-, or normal precipitation are present in the rest of the region.

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on December 21st indicates drought conditions will likely improve in Colorado but persist for much of the region.

Station Summaries: By the Number

Download PDF Below

November 2023 Climate Summary

November 2023 Climate Summary

Snowfall in Western Kansas, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

In a similar pattern to October, warmer temperatures dominated until a late-month shot of cool air and snow on Thanksgiving weekend led to serious impacts. Outside of the heavy snowfall in some places associated with this system, the region was extremely dry.   

The Thanksgiving weekend storm impacted at the worst possible time during the peak of traveling. Hundreds of wrecks occurred, with over 400 reported in the state of Kansas alone. Cities like Manhattan, Topeka, and Wichita all received more snowfall in one storm than the entirety of last year. The last time Wichita received this much snow in a single November storm was over 100 years ago in 1906. In Nebraska, three people died in separate crashes in the central part of the state, and over 100 wrecks were reported in the city of Lincoln alone. Further west, Wyoming experienced numerous wrecks after over 20 inches (50.8 cm) of snow fell in some places. Denver International Airport was significantly impacted once again, with over 1,500 flights delayed during a weekend where nearly 700,000 people were traveling through the airport.   

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top) and percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for November 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

Besides the thanksgiving weekend storm, precipitation was hard to come by this month, with only isolated areas receiving above-normal amounts. Much of the region was below 25 percent of their average, with pockets of below 5 percent present. The dryness resulted in multiple places ranking in the top 5 driest, with some recording their driest November.  

Bone-dry conditions have plagued much of Colorado and western Kansas this entire fall. Record wetness towards the end of spring has given way to drier conditions since then. Goodland, Kansas only received 0.66 inches (16.76 mm) of precipitation this fall to rank 4th driest. Just across the state line, no precipitation was recorded in some parts of Yuma County. Further south in Colorado, Alamosa only received trace amounts to tie for 3rd place.  

Precipitation also flipped drastically in the Dakotas this month. Sioux Falls, South Dakota received 3.05 inches (7.75 cm) in September and October, only to observe 0.01 inches (0.254 mm) in November to rank 4th driest. The highest amount recorded in both states was just over one inch (2.54 cm), a far cry from nearly 7 inches (17.78 cm) for parts of South Dakota in October.  

The Thanksgiving weekend storm wreaked havoc and brought large quantities of snow, particularly in Kansas. A large band of over 9 inches (22.86 cm) of snow fell from Pratt to Junction City, with 14.1 inches (35.81 cm) observed in Marion. Outside of Kansas, Wyoming experienced isolated areas of extremely heavy snowfall. The city of Lander in the west-central part of the state recorded 22.9 inches (58.17 cm) of snow that weekend, which also led the city to record its snowiest month. 18.8 inches (47.75 cm) of that fell on the 23rd which was the highest single day total since 1999. A CoCoRaHS observer outside of town observed even higher snow totals, with a whopping 27.6 inches (70.1 cm) over a two-day period. 

Mountain snowpack is below normal for many of the basins in the west. Snow water equivalent (SWE) is below 50 percent in eastern Wyoming at the beginning of December. Streamflow remained well-below normal in the eastern portions of Kansas and Nebraska, with record lows reported.  

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for November 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

Outside of the Thanksgiving weekend cooldown, November was the conclusion of a very warm fall for the High Plains. Nearly the entire region was warmer than normal, with some locations over 6 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) above their normal temperature for both the month and the entire fall season.  

Until the 22nd, much of the lower part of the region was on track to rank in the top five warmest Novembers until a brutally cold front pushed through. Temperatures reached up to 93 degrees F (33.9 degrees C) outside of Tribune, Kansas on the 8th, which tied for the 4th warmest temperature in November for Kansas. While temperatures did cool off from these record highs, they remained well above normal. Similar to October, a late month shot of cold air shocked the region. Temperatures plummeted across the High Plains, with the thermometer bottoming out at –20 degrees F (-28.9 degrees C) in Creede, Colorado on the 27th

Drought Conditions

The dryness this month took its toll, with a sizeable increase in drought conditions in the southern High Plains. Snowfall late in the month in eastern Kansas was too late to improve conditions in November. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) conditions were increased by over 6 percent.  

Colorado was the driest in the region and, as a result, experienced a 21 percent increase in D0-D4. Extreme drought (D3) was also reintroduced in the state for the first time since May of this year. Conditions also continued to deteriorate in Kansas, with close to 90 percent of the state in D0-D4. Soil conditions in the state are less than ideal, especially heading into the winter months. 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 is likely to be a moderate to strong event. 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 low chances of flooding through February. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be normal across the region through March.  

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 northern United States. Increased chances of above-normal temperatures are present in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and eastern Kansas.  

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation in the northern part of the country and the Great Lakes, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the southeastern United States. Increased chances of below-normal precipitation are present in parts of the Dakotas and Wyoming, while above-normal precipitation is favored for Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Equal chances of above-, below-, or normal precipitation are present in the rest of the region. 

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on November 30th indicates drought conditions will likely improve in Kansas but persist for the rest of the region.  

Station Summaries: By the Number

Download PDF Below

October 2023 Climate Summary

October 2023 Climate Summary

Glacier National Park in Montana, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

This October wrapped all seasons into a month in the High Plains. Scorching summerlike warmth and severe weather began the month, while the month ended with subzero temperatures and snow.

An unusual and impactful severe weather outbreak in Kansas and Nebraska occurred on the 3rd. Supported by temperatures reaching near or above 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C), thunderstorms exploded across the central portions of both states. Two EF-1 tornadoes touched down causing minor damage, while winds up to 86 miles per hour (138 km/h) and 3-inch hail (7.62 cm) damaged vehicles and homes.

The first snowstorms of the year swept across parts of the region along with arctic temperatures. Several inches of snow fell in North Dakota on the 26th, limiting travel across the state. A more significant storm impacted Colorado on the 29th, with over 100 flights canceled and 700 delays at the Denver International Airport. Impacts stretched all the way into Nebraska, where two people, unfortunately, perished due to the snow and ice along Interstate 80.

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top) and percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for October 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

October brought precipitation to much of the northern part of the region, while the southern portions received isolated but plentiful amounts.  Snow finally began falling at lower elevations, with the first winter storm of this season occurring near the end of the month.

Northern Nebraska was a big beneficiary, with several locations ranking in the top 10 wettest Octobers. Norfolk recorded 6.62 inches (16.82 cm) to rank 2nd, while to the west, Chadron observed 2.62 inches (6.66 cm) to rank 3rd. Drought conditions improved significantly across these areas as a result.

Impressive one-day precipitation amounts occurred on two separate occasions in Kansas and Nebraska. Several rounds of heavy showers on the 12th dropped 7.39 inches (18.77 cm) on an observer outside of Ewing, Nebraska, and set a record for the highest single-day precipitation total for the state of Nebraska in the month of October. Slow-moving thunderstorms on the 25th produced a staggering 9.35 inches (23.75 cm) precipitation outside of Osage City, Kansas to rank 2nd highest single-day amount in October. Several nearby observers near Emporia reported over 7.50 inches (19.05 cm) precipitation, while a large swath from Wichita to Kansas observed over 3 inches (7.62 cm).

Winter made an early appearance, with the first snowstorm impacting the northern part of the region on the 26th. Western North Dakota experienced several inches of snow, with Minot recording 11 inches (27.94 cm) and Bismarck recording 8.5 inches (21.59 cm) on the higher end. Another round of snow occurred several days later on the 29th in Colorado, with over 10 inches (25.4 cm) reported in parts of Colorado Springs and Denver.

Streamflow is in excellent shape for the majority of the region, with record highs in the northern part of the region. Eastern Kansas and Nebraska continue to grapple with drought and it was reflected in observations from the local stream gauges. Runoff for the Missouri River Basin is projected to be slightly above normal through the end of the year.

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for October 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

The overall trend of warmer temperatures continued into yet another month. A late shot of cold air provided some much-needed relief; however, parts of the region were up to 6 to 9 degrees F (3.3 to 5 degrees C) above normal in October.

The month began extremely warm, with much of the region well above 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C). Western Kansas and southwestern Nebraska were scalding hot, reaching up to 98 degrees F (36.7 degrees C) in places. Numerous daily records were set, with some locations close to their all-time highs for October. Temperatures hovered slightly above normal until a blast of arctic air pushed through the region late in the month, leading to the first hard freeze of the year for many. Subzero temperatures were recorded in Wyoming and North Dakota, while single-digit lows reached all the way to Kansas and Nebraska. Combined with gusty winds, the region experienced a shock to an otherwise mild fall season.

Drought Conditions

Improvements to drought conditions were the major story this month. The heavy bouts of rain led to large-scale improvements in several states. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) was reduced by over 5 percent in the High Plains.

Nebraska experienced the most significant changes, with up to 3 classes of improvement. Moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4) was over 20 percent, with conditions nearly erased from the northern part of the state. Kansas also greatly benefited, with extreme drought (D3) reduced by 13 percent and D4 completely eliminated for the first time in well over a year. Parts of the Dakotas observed up to 2 classes of improvement in response to above-normal precipitation. 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 is likely to be a moderate to strong event. 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 low chances of flooding through January. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be normal across the region through February.

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 northern United States. Increased chances of above-normal temperatures are present in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and eastern Kansas.

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation in the northwestern part of the country and in the Great Lakes region, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the southeastern United States. Increased chances of below-normal precipitation are present in parts of the Dakotas and Wyoming, while above-normal precipitation is favored in eastern Kansas. Equal chances of above-, below-, or normal precipitation are present in the rest of the region.

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on October 31st indicates drought conditions will likely improve in Kansas but persist for the rest of the region.

Station Summaries: By the Number

Download PDF Below

September 2023 Climate Summary

September 2023 Climate Summary

Flathead Lake near Polson, Montana, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

The region grappled with warmer temperatures and spotty precipitation this month, less than ideal conditions for agricultural producers. These conditions delayed harvesting in the region, while others are planting winter wheat on dry soils. 

After another disappointing winter wheat crop this year, producers yet again started on the wrong foot.  With very dry soil conditions, planting has been difficult. Farmers are planting deeper or planting at normal depth with hopes of precipitation. 

Soybean and corn harvests have begun for many, with initial reports indicating a mixed bag of yields. Irrigated crops have reported slightly below-normal yields, while dryland yields varied widely in Kansas and Nebraska. The timing of planting this year also played a critical role in dryland corn yields, with much higher yields reported for those planted early.

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top) and percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for September 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

Precipitation was spotty this month, with a sharp divide in distribution in some states. Southwestern Kansas greatly benefited from the moisture, while north of I-70 in northwestern Kansas received next to nothing. Wyoming continued to be wet, with some places up to 300 percent above their normal precipitation.

After a stretch of wet condition starting in April, northwestern Kansas had the faucet turned off. Goodland only had trace amount of precipitation, establishing their driest month on record. Nearby Colby only received 0.03 inches (0.76 mm) this month to rank 2nd driest, while just a mere 60 miles to the north and south both received well over 3 inches (7.62 cm) of precipitation.

Parts of Wyoming continue to experience extreme wetness, with several locations on pace for their wettest year on record. In the western part of the state, Afton and Pinedale recorded their wettest January through September. In the central and eastern parts of the state, Shoshoni and Story also rank first respectively. Several other cities such as Casper, Cheyenne, and Rawlins are also in the top 10. 

Severe weather remained active this month, particularly in southwestern Nebraska. On the 21st, an 81 mph (130 km/h) gust occurred near McCook, and a 4-inch (10.16 cm) hailstone fell near Lexington. Hail continued to be an issue in eastern Wyoming yet again, meanwhile, Colorado had no reports of severe weather according to the Storm Prediction Center. 

Streamflow is in good to great shape across the western and northern parts of the region. Gauges are much above normal to record highs in the Dakotas and Wyoming. Eastern Kansas continues to grapple with drought, and it has been reflected in below normal streamflow reported by many gauges. Runoff for the Missouri River Basin is projected to be slightly above normal in October.

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for September 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

Well-above-normal temperatures continued this month, with many locations in or just outside of their top 10 warmest September. Much of the region experienced 2 to 4 degrees F (1.1 to 2.2 degrees C) above normal and a very few locations reported below-normal temperatures.

Led by a scorching end to the month, numerous places ranked in the top 10 warmest category. The Dakotas were among the warmest, with Fargo, North Dakota observing their warmest month on record. The average temperature was 67 degrees F (19.4 degrees C), crushing the previous record of 65.6 degrees F (18.7 degrees C) set in 2015. Nearby Grand Forks, North Dakota as well as Sioux Falls, South Dakota ranked second, narrowly missing their respective records. Further ‘driving home the message’, every state in the region had locations reporting top 10 warmest temperatures during this month. 

Drought Conditions

Drought conditions both improved and degraded across the region, with large changes in the eastern parts of Kansas and Nebraska. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) was reduced by nearly 1 percent in the High Plains.

After slow improvements in central Nebraska, D4 was rapidly expanded once again. Nearly 5 percent of the state is now under D4, and it includes the highest corn-producing county in the state. Conditions did finally improve in the central and western North Dakota, after above-normal precipitation. Elsewhere in the region, both 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 January.

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 western Colorado and Wyoming.

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the southeastern United States. Equal chances of above-, below-, or normal precipitation are present in the High Plains.

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on September 30th indicates drought conditions will likely improve in Kansas, Nebraska, and northeast North Dakota.

Station Summaries: By the Number

Download PDF Below

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

Download PDF Below

July 2023 Climate Summary

July 2023 Climate Summary

Storm over Lincoln, Nebraska, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

 July was a mixed bag of weather for the High Plains. Precipitation was greatly needed for some, while others received next to nothing. Cooler temperatures dominated much of the region, despite a heatwave late in the month.

Wheat harvest in Kansas began at the beginning of June, with most of it harvested by the fourth of July. Around this time, however, storms pushed through the state nearly every other day which caused numerous delays. Weeds became a significant issue, and the quality of the wheat began to decline. Some places, such as Morton County, didn’t have the first loads of wheat to the Co-op until early July. The same county also reported 70 to 75 percent of planted acres and were zeroed out by crop insurance due to the ongoing multi-year drought. The average yield for the state is expected to be historically low, with an average of 32 bushels an acre.

Corn and soybeans are in decent shape throughout the region, with a large portion of crops in fair to good shape. Pasture and range conditions are improving, with only small numbers in very poor shape. Conditions could see further improvement in August, with the majority of agricultural production areas having a chance of above-normal precipitation.

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top), day-by-day percent of normal precipitation (middle), percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for July 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

Aside from scattered pockets of above-normal precipitation, the region was fairly dry this month. Western Colorado and the majority of North Dakota were well below normal, with places of near-record dryness.

While eastern Colorado has received normal to above normal precipitation these past few months, the western part of the state has not been so lucky. Grand Junction tied with 1898 for the driest on record, while Alamosa was the driest. Next to zero precipitation occurred in both places this month and combined with the recent heat, drought conditions have begun to be reintroduced in the southwestern part of the state.

Among those who missed the rain this month include McCook, Nebraska, and the surrounding area. Just a few months ago, they recorded their wettest month ever by a large margin and greatly improved the ongoing drought. This month was a setback, as only 0.50 inches (12.7 mm)  precipitation occurred, and it was ranked 5th driest. At the end of June, they ranked 10th wettest for January through June period. Currently, they rank 25th after a meager July precipitation.

For the portions of the region that did receive precipitation, the majority of it was related to severe weather. Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska recorded their highest number of severe thunderstorm warnings issued (period of record 2002 to present). Over 350 were issued in each state, with Colorado also recording their most tornado warnings as well. On the 20th, a whopping 115 mph (185 km/h) gust was recorded outside of Wallace, Kansas. A building was completely destroyed by the winds, while other locations were pummeled by the combination of the wind and up to 2.5 inch (6.35 cm) hail.

Streamflow is in good shape for the region, except for Kansas and parts of Nebraska. Conditions are below to much below normal along the Kansas-Nebraska border and eastern Kansas. Some stations were at record lows at the end of July.  

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for July 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

Temperatures were cooler for many places, however, an oppressive heatwave occurred towards the end of the month with temperatures well above 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C).

Western Colorado experienced well above-normal temperatures throughout the month, with the heatwave only adding fuel to the fire. Alamosa tied with 2003 for the 2nd warmest and narrowly missed the record, with an average temperature of 68.2 degrees F (20.1 degrees C). Grand Junction also ranked 2nd warmest, with an average temperature of 83.3 degrees F (28.5 degrees C). The average high temperature for Grand Junction was 99.3 degrees F (37.4 degrees C) for July, which is the 2nd warmest month on record.

The heatwave that impacted the region late in the month not only brought scorching temperatures but also set some notable records. On the 17th, Grand Junction tied with July 9th, 2021 for the highest all-time temperature of 107 degrees F (41.7 degrees C). Lawrence, Kansas recorded its highest July low temperature 84 degrees F (28.9 degrees C) on the 27th. It was also the 4th highest low temperature of all time.

Drought Conditions

Drought conditions improved this month, particularly in Kansas and Nebraska. However, North Dakota and southwestern Colorado were extremely dry, resulting in drought conditions rapidly intensifying. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) was reduced by a little over 2 percent in the region.

The drought that has plagued Kansas and Nebraska has seen steady improvement this summer. Above-normal precipitation across eastern Nebraska reduced D4 in the state by nearly 11 percent this month. On the opposite end of the spectrum, southwestern Colorado was near bone dry and observed a 25 percent increase in D0-D4. North Dakota also experienced a rapid increase in moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4). 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 and western Nebraska. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be limited across the region through November.

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. Slight chances of below normal temperatures are present in eastern Nebraska, northeastern Kansas, and southeastern South Dakota.

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.  

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on July 31st indicates drought conditions will likely improve across the region, while development is likely in western Colorado.

Station Summaries: By the Number

Download PDF Below

June 2023 Climate Summary

June 2023 Climate Summary

View of Boulder, Colorado, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

The month of June was both good and bad for the High Plains. Record precipitation greatly improved drought conditions for some, while others continued to remain dry. Drought conditions continued to intensify in the eastern portions of the region, leading to significant impacts.

The dryness plaguing the central and eastern parts of the region has created lasting impacts. The lack of recharge this past winter has led to several cities implementing water restrictions in an effort to conserve the precious resource. The town of Waverly was forced to designate emergency restrictions due to low levels, while the outskirts of Lincoln implemented mandatory restrictions of 50 percent. Other locations like Hays, Kansas reintroduced summertime restrictions that include a ban on outdoor water use from noon to 7:00 PM.

Severe weather was active throughout the region, with hail and winds being the primary threats this month. A hailstorm on the 21st interrupted a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver, Colorado. Nearly 100 people were injured, with seven taken to the hospital after concert goers failed to heed the severe thunderstorm warnings.

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top), day-by-day percent of normal precipitation (middle), percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for June 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 trend of above-normal precipitation in the west and below-normal to the east continued into June. The Front Range and Rocky Mountains observed record to near-record amounts, while eastern Kansas was below 25 percent of their normal. 

Drought conditions were erased from the state of Colorado after this month’s record precipitation, with only minimal dryness left. Denver surpassed their previous record by over an inch (2.54 cm), with 6.10 inches (15.49 cm) of precipitation. Nearby Akron set their new record after 7.48 inches (19 cm) fell there. Colorado Springs received 9.62 inches (24.44 cm) to break the previous record, which is nearly 60 percent of its annual precipitation. 

Another benefactor from the recent precipitation was Wyoming. Numerous locations recorded one of their wettest months on record, while others like Laramie and Sheridan nearly broke theirs. Similar to Colorado, drought conditions greatly improved across the state. 

The severe weather this month was both ends of the extreme. The Dakotas observed record-low issuances of tornado warnings for June (period of record 2003-2023), with only three total issued for both states. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Colorado and Wyoming had near-record numbers of tornado warnings. Colorado had a particularly nasty month, with 71 tornado warnings issued and a whopping 152 reports of hail. 

Snowpack melted in June, with the mainstem storage approaching the average. Releases from Gavins Point dam have been adjusted to near normal. Streamflow is average to above normal across the region except for eastern Kansas and Nebraska.

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for June 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

Record to near-record warmth continued in the northern part of the region this month. Parts of North Dakota were 6 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) above normal, while the cooler and wetter western portions were up to 4 degrees F (2.2 degrees C) below normal.

In North Dakota, Fargo and Grand Forks recorded their warmest June of 74.8 degrees F (23.8 degrees C) and 71.6 degrees F (22 degrees C). Both locations recorded their warmest May-June, after having their second warmest May the previous month. This contrasts sharply with early spring, when well below temperatures dominated North Dakota. Elsewhere in the Dakotas, Aberdeen and Sisseton ranked in the Top 5 warmest.

While temperatures have not been excessively hot this year in eastern Nebraska, they have been steadily very warm. At the end of June, Lincoln had recorded 46 days at or above 85 degrees F (29.4 degrees C) for the year. This is the most on record for the first six months of a year, with two more days than 1934 which was the warmest year on record.

Drought Conditions

Drought conditions further improved in June, particularly in Kansas. Eastern Nebraska continued to remain dry, with exceptional drought (D4) observed over much of the area. Overall, abnormally dry to exceptional drought (D0-D4) was reduced by nearly seven percent in the High Plains. 

The steady stream of precipitation in Kansas brought relief this month. D4 was reduced by nine percent, with only small pockets remaining in the state.  Nebraska experienced improvements in the west and degradation in the east. Drought is firmly entrenched across the eastern part of the state, after yet another dry month. 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 and western Nebraska. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be limited across the region through October.

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 majority of the United States. Increased chances of above-normal temperatures are present in Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation across the southwestern and northwestern United States, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the central part of the country. Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming have increased chances of above normal precipitation.  

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on June 30th indicates drought conditions will likely improve across the region.

Station Summaries: By the Number

Download PDF Below

May 2023 Climate Summary

May 2023 Climate Summary

Sunset at Lake McConaughy outside of Ogallala, Nebraska, Photo Courtesy of Gannon Rush

Regional Breakdown

The phrase, “when it rains, it pours” would describe the month of May for northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska. Parts of the area had gone nearly 290 days without over 0.5 inches (12.7 mm) of precipitation in a day to nearly 7.5 inches (19.05 cm) in a single day. Other places in the region like eastern Nebraska, have not been as fortunate, with near-record dryness this month and the entire spring.

The town of Culbertson in southwestern Nebraska recorded its driest year on record in 2022, with a meager 10.87 inches of precipitation (27.61 cm). In the month of May, they recorded nearly the same amount as the whole year of 2022, with 10.65 inches of precipitation (27.05 cm). While the complete reversal has greatly improved drought conditions, long-term drought impacts still plague the area. These rains are also too late to improve winter wheat yields for the year, with yields projected to be among the worst in the past 60 years.

This spring was incredibly dry across eastern Nebraska, with corn struggling to emerge. Widespread irrigation is taking place rather early in the season, due to insufficient precipitation. This dryness is not short-term, with multiple locations recording their driest past 12 months. 

Above: Departure from 1991-2020 normal temperature (top), day-by-day percent of normal precipitation (middle), percent of normal precipitation (bottom) for May 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

May precipitation was above normal for eastern Colorado, western Kansas and Nebraska, and parts of the Dakotas. The eastern part of the region was bone dry, with places 25 percent below normal.

Eastern Nebraska was dry not only this past month but the entire Spring. For the month of May, Omaha was the driest on record with only 0.17 inches (4.06 mm) of precipitation. This has broken the previous low of 0.55 inches (13.97 mm) set in 1989 and 1925 by a large margin. Lincoln was 0.02 inches (0.51 mm) from ranking driest, with only 0.51 inches this past month. Looking further back, Norfolk observed their driest spring with 2.41 inches (6.12 cm) of precipitation. Hastings and Lincoln were not far behind, ranking 3rd. The dryness plaguing the area also stretches much further back, with Hastings, Lincoln, and Norfolk all having their driest past 12 months.

A continuous onslaught of storms impacted the Front Range into the western parts of Kansas and Nebraska. McCook, Nebraska observed not only their wettest May, but also their wettest month on record with 10.94 inches (27.79 cm). Nearby CoCoRaHS observers reported amounts up to 14 inches (35.56 cm), much more than they received in 2022. Nearby North Platte ranked 3rd wettest, while Chadron ranked 5th. In Colorado, Denver ranked 4th, and Colorado Springs ranked 6th wettest.

Severe weather was active at the beginning of the month before calming down. Multiple days featured several tornadoes and 4+ inch (10.16 cm) hail, with the peak on the 12th of the month in Nebraska. 19 tornadoes were reported, with three being rated EF-2, with one having an estimated width of a mile (1.61 km). Numerous hailstone events were also reported that day. The largest hailstone with a size around 4.5 inches (11.43 cm) was reported near the town of Pawnee.

According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, snowpack melt is nearing its conclusion.  Streamflow is well below-normal across much of the eastern Plains, while conditions improved in the western portions of Kansas and Nebraska.  

Above: Total precipitation in inches (top) and departure from normal precipitation in inches (bottom) for May 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

Temperatures were above-to-well above-normal for the region, with departures over 8 degrees F (4.4 degrees C) above-normal in parts of the Dakotas. Many locations ranked in the top 5 warmest after the unseasonably warm temperatures.

The Dakotas were unusually warm, with many locations observing near-record warmth this month. In North Dakota, Grand Forks and Fargo were the 2nd warmest on record while Williston and Dickinson both tied for 6th. Grand Forks surpassed 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) for the first time in 241 days on May 13th, marking the end of the cooler temperatures in the state. South Dakota had Sisseton, Mobridge, and Sioux Falls all rank in the top 5 warmest.

Parts of Wyoming and western Nebraska were also warmer this month, with Laramie and Cheyenne in the top 5 warmest. Portions of Yellowstone National Park reached nearly 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C), which is their record high temperature for May. Nearby Nebraska had Chadron and Scottsbluff in the top 10 warmest this past month.

Drought Conditions

The region, for the most part, experienced improvements up to 3 classes this month thanks to constant precipitation. The areas that were dry observed up to a 2-class degradation such as eastern Nebraska and Kansas. Overall, moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4) was reduced by 12 percent for the High Plains.

Southwestern Nebraska experienced the most improvement this month, with some areas going from extreme drought (D3) to abnormally dry (D0). The eastern part of the state observed a large increase to both D3 and D4, in response to the dryness since the beginning of the year. 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, La Niña conditions have ended and transitioned to ENSO-neutral. An El Niño Watch was issued on May 11th, with conditions likely to form early this summer. 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 Major Flooding in central South Dakota. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), fire potential will be limited across the region through September.

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 much of the United States. Increased chances of above-normal temperatures are present in Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming.

Precipitation

The outlook for the next three months indicates below-normal precipitation across the southwestern and northwestern United States, while above-normal precipitation is favored for the central part of the country. Most of the High Plains region has chances of above-normal precipitation.  

Drought

The U.S Seasonal Drought Outlook released on June 15th indicates drought conditions will likely improve.

Station Summaries: By the Number

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