Missouri River Basin Summer Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlooks

Regional- Significant Events for June – August 2022

Highlights for the Basin

Rapid snowmelt caused by rain led to record flooding in Montana and parts of Yellowstone National Park from June 11th to 14th. Severe damage was inflicted to infrastructure after flows were nearly 192% of the previous record.


The drought-afflicted tri-state area (CO, KS, NE) and central Nebraska were arid in August, with near-record dryness across numerous locations. Nebraska and Kansas ranked 2nd and 7th driest for the month.


August was scorchingly hot in the northwestern part of the Basin after a prolonged heatwave impacted the area. Montana and Wyoming ranked 3rd and 6th warmest after departures of 8-10 degrees across both states in August.

Regional- Climate Overview for June – August 2022

Temperature and Precipitation Anomalies

Temperatures were above-normal for the majority of the Missouri River Basin, with the greatest departures in the western parts of Kansas and Nebraska. Temperatures in June and July were both above-normal throughout the region.
Numerous locations in the western portions of the basin observed their top five warmest summers, with only 2012 being hotter in some places.


Precipitation was above-normal in Colorado and parts of Wyoming due to the southwest monsoon, while other isolated pockets of near-normal precipitation were present in the basin. Much of Kansas and Nebraska were well below normal, resulting in the intensification of drought conditions in those states.

Departure from Normal Temperature (°F) (top)
and Percent of Normal Precipitation (bottom) for Winter 21-22

Changes in Drought Conditions

Drought conditions improved across Montana, western South Dakota, and northern Wyoming this summer, while persisting and degrading in Kansas and Nebraska. According to the Drought Monitor, exceptional drought (D4) encompasses over 10 percent of both states. The map above shows the areas of increasing and decreasing categories of drought.

June 7 – September 6, 2022

Regional- Impacts for June – August 2022

Agriculture

Agriculture in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska was severely impacted by drought this summer, with low to little yields expected in some areas. Many farmers have filed for crop insurance due to poor yields or chopped fields for silage. As of September 1st, sorghum yields in Kansas are projected to be 45 bushels per acre, down from 78 in 2021. Pasture conditions are in very poor shape, which has led to the culling of cattle herds. A heatwave in June led to numerous cattle deaths in southwestern Kansas, with thousands of cattle reported to have perished. Dryness in Montana and the Dakotas has led to grasshopper infestations across those states, impacting crops and pastures.

Stressed corn south of McCook, Nebraska, credit Kevin Rush
Aftermath of the Cedar Canyon fire near Scottsbluff, Nebraska, credit Gary Stone

Water Resources

Drought has taken its toll, with water resources stressed across the region. According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers, winter releases from Gavins Point Dam will be at minimum rates (12,000 cubic feet per second) to conserve water. Runoff improved slightly over the summer; however, it was not enough to overcome the persistent drought. Due to dryness and irrigation demand, the Platte River is dry in much of central and western Nebraska for the first time since 2012. The Sherman and Calamus irrigation reservoirs in central Nebraska have reached such low water levels that boat ramps are being closed.

Receding shoreline at Holmes Lake in Lincoln, Nebraska, credit Rezaul Mahmood

Regional- Outlook for October – December 2022

According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the outlook for the upcoming season indicates increased chances of above-normal temperatures across much of the Missouri River Basin. Equal chances of above, below, and near-normal temperatures are favored in Montana and the Dakotas. Increased chances of below-normal precipitation are present throughout the lower basin, while above-normal precipitation is slightly favored for western Montana.


La Nina influences will continue through fall. Based on the outlooks, drought will continue across the basin. Drought development is likely across much of Colorado, eastern Kansas, and northwestern Nebraska.

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 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

National Drought Mitigation Center
http://drought.unl.edu/

Download PDF below

Missouri River Basin Quarterly Climate Impacts and Outlooks

Regional- Significant Events for December 2021- February 2022

Highlights for the Basin

It was a very dry winter throughout most of the Missouri River Basin, especially in the southern portions. The 8th driest February and 10th driest winter on record for the Basin. Nebraska and Kansas observed their 4th and 5th driest winter, respectively. February was very dry, with Wyoming recording their 4th driest and Nebraska recording their 2nd driest month on record. December was a very warm month in the Basin. Kansas and Nebraska observed their warmest December on record, while Colorado and Wyoming observed their 2nd and 9th, respectively. Drought coverage expanded greatly across much of the lower basin. Lincoln, Nebraska recorded its 2nd driest
and lowest snowfall this winter.

Regional- Climate Overview for December 2021- February 2022

Temperature and Precipitation Anomalies

Winter temperatures were above normal for the majority of the Missouri River Basin. December was warm across most of the Basin. Both Kansas and Nebraska observing their highest maximum temperatures on record. Temperatures were closer to normal throughout the rest of the winter.

Precipitation was mostly below normal in the mountains and plains. The exception was eastern North Dakota with well above normal precipitation and snowfall. Many counties in northern Kansas and Nebraska ranked among their driest winters on record. Mountain snowpack for the upper Missouri Basin is approximately 80-85% of normal. This precipitation pattern is consistent with historical La Niña conditions.

Departure from Normal Temperature (°F) (top)
and Percent of Normal Precipitation (bottom) for Winter 21-22

Changes in Drought Conditions

Drought continued through the winter, with conditions deteriorating up to 3 levels in Kansas and Nebraska. Over 98 percent of Nebraska and 73 percent of Kansas are in drought at the end of February. Despite the dryness in the southeastern part of the region, conditions improved slightly in Montana and eastern North Dakota. The worst category of drought was reduced over 29 percent in Montana.

Dec. 7, 2021 – Feb. 28, 2022

Regional- Impacts for December 2021- February 2022

Wildfires

Several destructive wildfires broke out in December. The most destructive fire in Colorado history broke out on December 30th in Marshall. Aided by gusts of up 100 mph, over 1,000 homes were destroyed causing over $1 billion dollars in damage. In addition, High winds on December 15th led to multiple wildfires in north-central Kansas that burned over 160,000 acres. Two people and hundreds of cattle perished.

Wildfire in Clark County, KS, credit Kansas Forest Service

Recreation

Snow drought conditions and fluctuating temperatures this winter
led to decreased recreational activities in the lower elevations and plains. Snow making for skiing suffered in the Black Hills especially in December due to warm temperatures. A lack of stable lake ice, from varying temperatures, led to more limited ice fishing.

Dust storm in MT, credit Sean R Harvey

Water Resources

Low precipitation throughout most of the basin impacted water resources. Drought has lowered the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System and led to drought conservation measures to be implemented. This will impact navigation in 2022. Also, stock ponds for cattle have not recovered due to limited precipitation and runoff. Recharging these ponds will be difficult without substantial rain events this spring.

Dried up pond in KS, credit Mike McCarty

Regional- Outlook for April- June 2022

The outlook for April through June indicates increased chances of above normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation for the southern and central portions of the region. Equal chances of above, below, and near normal temperatures and precipitation are favored across North Dakota and eastern Montana. The only area with increased chances of below-normal temperatures is in northwest Montana. Based on outlooks, drought conditions are likely to persist for much of the basin, especially in areas where below-normal precipitation and warmer than average temperatures are more likely. Currently, La Niña influences will continue through the summer.

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 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

National Drought Mitigation Center
http://drought.unl.edu/

Download PDF below