Weekly Weather Outlook and Update: April 18, 2024

Weekly Weather Outlook and Update: April 18, 2024

Cool Spell and More Snow for the Panhandle

We are in day two out of four of temperatures being below average as a broader trough slowly makes its way through the central and eastern U.S. The good news is we aren't talking about record cold but it still will be cool, especially in western Nebraska where there will be more extensive cloud cover and chances for precipitation. A frontal boundary will more or less be stalled somewhere between northern Colorado and the southern Panhandle and with some moisture advection into the region, precipitation is likely Friday, April 19 and Saturday morning, April 20 from Kimball to Ogallala and down into northwest Kansas. A period of moderate snow is possible Saturday morning in these areas, with two to four inches possible in Sidney and Big Springs.

The rest of the state can breathe a sigh of relief as no snow is expected outside the southern Panhandle and southwest corner. But highs on Saturday are going to be generally in the 40s west and upper 40s to low 50s east. Furthermore, sub-freezing temperatures are likely statewide in the mornings, with the exception of the far southeast, where it is a bit more questionable. The current forecast shows temperatures dropping into the 20s north of the Platte on Saturday and Sunday morning, April 21 and in the low 30s south of it. This is not likely to be a long duration freeze in eastern and southern sections of Nebraska. But it may be problematic for sensitive vegetation that thought it was June already.

Figure 1. Minimum temperatures on Saturday morning.
Figure 2. Expected temperature anomalies next week.
Figure 3. Potential precipitation Tuesday morning, April 23.
Figure 4. 500-mb height anomalies late next week.

Warmer Weather Returns

Upper-level ridging starts to return by Sunday afternoon with a nicer day to end the weekend. Temperatures should bump up another 10-15°F on Monday, April 22 with most of the state seeing highs in the upper 60s to mid-70s. A cold front is likely to move through the state by Tuesday morning, April 23, which will temporarily bring temperatures back to more seasonal levels in the 60s. It also looks increasingly likely that the I-80 corridor in central and eastern Nebraska will have a period of showers and scattered thunderstorms. Rainfall is not expected to be significant, but a half-inch would be possible in Columbus, York, Lincoln and Omaha.

After the brief shot of cooler air and moisture, temperatures look to return to the 70's statewide from Wednesday, April 24-Friday, April 26. A high of 80-82°F would be possible across the Kansas border in this period. Nighttime temperatures are expected to be seasonal and pleasant. No additional freezes are likely next week. Planting windows should be reasonably open later next week.

Storms Next Weekend?

By the end of next week, we will be turning our attention to another sharp trough entering the southwestern U.S. Exact details, including how quickly it fully ejects into the central Plains, are a bit uncertain at this point. But there will certainly be periodic chances for rain and thunderstorms starting Friday night. Severe weather would certainly be possible next weekend in central and eastern Nebraska, as would the potential for heavier rainfall. The current prognosis from the ECMWF Ensemble shows that an inch of rain over the next 10 days (much of which would be next weekend) is likely in eastern and northern sections of the state and possible in the southern sections of the state. Recommend paying attention to the forecast carefully by late next week, but I wouldn't cancel outdoor plans for next Friday night or Saturday, April 27 just yet.

One-inch precipitation map April 28
Figure 5. Probability of one-inch precipitation by the end of next week.
Eight- to 14-day precipitation outlook map
Figure 6. Eight- to 14-day precipitation outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.
Eight- to 14-day temperature outlook map
Figure 7. Eight- to 14-day temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.

Moisture and Drought Update

Most of the state saw some moisture over the past week (sorry far southwest) but it was certainly not evenly distributed. Heaviest precipitation was confined to northeast corner of the state where amounts in excess of two inches were common and some locations in Wayne and Cedar counties picked up over four inches. Elsewhere amounts were generally between 0.5- to 1.25-inch. This moisture was welcome but in areas where amounts were under an inch, it didn't make a big improvement in soil moisture percentiles compared to a week ago. Of course, the first part of the period was very warm and breezy, so the improvement compared to Monday was more meaningful.

There was also some severe weather in south-central Nebraska on Monday evening with a brief tornado touchdown in Webster County. There was a bit more on Tuesday in the area close to the main surface low, with tornado reports in Platte and Colfax counties.

Recent precipitation map
Figure 8. Recent precipitation.

The area of the state that has been driest has shifted from northeast Nebraska (where it is now sufficiently moist) to the opposite corner. Most of Chase, Dundy, Hitchcock and southern Hayes counties have picked up just a little over an inch since early February and one CoCoRaHS observer in southern Hayes County has picked up under 0.25-inch total. This recent dryness is very apparent on the root zone soil moisture percentiles map, especially in Hitchcock County. The latest Rangeland specific VegDRI map also suggests a moderate level of vegetation stress. Therefore, the expansion of abnormal dryness on the U.S. Drought Monitor in that southwest corner was absolutely warranted this week.

Figure 9. Soil moisture percentiles.
Figure 10. Current four-inch soil temperatures.
Figure 11. Current U.S. Drought Monitor map.
Figure 12. Rangeland VegDRI map for April 14.

Thinking a bit more broadly, it is the northern part of an area in the High Plains that is starting to head in the direction of drought and is an area that I am getting concerned about for drought impacts this season, as most projections show that area in a higher risk for precipitation deficits this summer. So, if drought is in place going into the summer in places like Benkleman, it has ample opportunity to get worse quickly. So one of these next storm systems absolutely needs to deliver good moisture into the area to reduce that drought risk.

At this point, impacts to winter wheat seems to be relatively minimal as it is checking with solid ratings on the recent NASS reports.

Temperature and Precipitation Extremes Over the Past Week

Click here to view the average temperature, growing degree days and total precipitation for each station that had no missing days over the last week. Includes CoCoRaHS observer reports. Below are the temperature and precipitation extremes around the state over the past week

  • Maximum High Temperature: 93°F, Superior
  • Minimum High Temperature: 50°F, Kilgore 1NE
  • Minimum Low Temperature: 16°F, Bushnell 15S
  • Maximum Low Temperature: 59°F, Tecumseh
  • Maximum Precipitation: 4.77 inches, Carroll 6.35 WSW
  • Maximum Snowfall: T, Alliance 5.4 E
Storm reports April 15
Figure 13. Storm reports from April 15.
Storm reports April 16
Figure 14. Storm reports from April 16.

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