Early Spring Temperatures 2-3 Weeks Behind Normal

Early Spring Temperatures 2-3 Weeks Behind Normal

Nebraska Sees Little Precip from Recent Fronts

A strong low pressure system moved out of the western U.S. during the past several days and produced severe weather and isolated pockets of heavy rain across eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  More organized widespread heavy precipitation fell across Missouri, northern Arkansas, and the southern Ohio River valley.  Further north, accumulating snowfall was reported from eastern Colorado northeastward through the western Great Lakes.

This is the first storm system of 2014 that was able to draw abundant Gulf of Mexico moisture northward into the central Great Plains and generate widespread convection south of Nebraska.  Unfortunately, Nebraska was far enough north that we didn't see the deep moisture that could be lifted over the top of the cool air mass hovering over the Great Plains.

Unlike previous systems that have impacted the state during the past couple of months, this system took a typical southwest to northeast track from the southern Rockies to the western Great Lakes.   If we are to break the dry pattern that has been firmly established across the eastern three-fourths of the state since mid-November, we will need to see this type of storm track continue throughout April and May.

I am sure that there may be some disappointment with the moisture output from this recent storm, as well as some disgust that it was accompanied by accumulating snowfall.  However, this is the second storm system in less than a week that has resulted in the development of severe weather across portions of Kansas and Oklahoma.  There was more organized precipitation with our most recent storm system and a northward movement of the organized convection from southern Kansas into central Kansas.

Outlook for April? Continued Cool and Delayed Planting

Here in Nebraska, dew point temperatures finally moved into the low 40s, compared to the upper 20s to low 30s with the early week storm that caused blizzard conditions across the Dakota's.  In essence, the mean jet stream position is slowly moving northward with each successive storm system and juicier air masses are knocking on southern Nebraska's door.  As long as the weather pattern remains active, we should begin to see precipitation events develop better moisture output as temperatures rise and the warmer air is able to hold more moisture.

We need to remember that temperatures this past winter averaged 5-7°F colder than last winter across eastern Nebraska, with western Nebraska averaging 3-5°F colder.  March temperatures continued the winter trend with temperature running 2-5°F below normal across eastern Nebraska and 1-4°F colder than normal across western Nebraska.  Thus, typical early spring temperatures are running approximately two to three weeks behind normal.

This is important because our first severe weather outbreak usually occurs sometime from late March to early April.  Colder than normal temperatures are delaying the onset of severe weather and the precipitation we normally see in April.  Although weather models point to a gradual easing of persistently cool temperatures, there is no signal for an extended period of 70°F or greater temperatures for the next two weeks.

After a brief visit with highs in the 50s to middle 60s by Saturday, another storm system is poised to impact the central United States from Sunday through Tuesday.  It appears that organized widespread moisture is unlikely, but occasional periods of scattered rain and/or snow may occur before temperatures move back into the 60s and 70s from next Wednesday through Saturday.  Another strong storm system is forecast for as early as April 12. The primary precipitation event is forecast for April 13-14 and maximum temperatures are likely to drop back into the 40s.

Another system is expected April 16-17 and temperatures may actually begin to rebound into the 60s.  If the temperature and precipitation trend verifies, it is unlikely that seven-day soil temperature averages (four inches below bare soil) will make it into the 50s before mid-April.  Additionally, if storm activity continues at a pace of one to two storm systems crossing the central Plains each week, the combination of cool soils and precipitation events will likely lead to early season corn planting delays.

Al Dutcher
State Climatologist