Warming sunshine produces slush and mud, alternating periods of warmth and wintry conditions expected into March

Shaun Evertson/Business Farmer A cow dog dozes in the warming morning sun Monday on a ranch near Kimball.

KIMBALL – Welcome sunshine, warmth, and mostly calm conditions made for somewhat more pleasant outdoor experiences across much of the tri-state region over the last week. The sunshine felt good, while mild winds and warmer air temperatures were a welcome hint of pending spring. The solar radiation and nearly balmy air quickly began to melt long-accumulated snow and ice, however, which produced a lot of mud and slush. Daytime excursions were often messy and difficult, and overnight freezing produced some areas of extreme slipperiness and others with hard-frozen, potentially axle-breaking, rutted terrain features.

Near Kimball farm fields, pastures and grasslands were beginning to lose their snow cover. Where snow and ice were deepest much of the cover remained, but many areas were clear of snow by Monday. With the ground still frozen melt water mostly ran downhill and collected in low lying areas, playas, and ponds.

In and around Kimball County cattle on winter pasture and corn stalks were finding adequate forage and new calves were beginning to dot the landscape.

By Tuesday afternoon the National Weather Service was forecasting cold and snow overnight, through Wednesday, and into Thursday. The weekend was still predicted to be warmer and seasonably pleasant.


Regional Forecast and Conditions

As of Tuesday morning (Feb. 14), the temperature at sunrise was 33 degrees under partly cloudy skies. Winds were westerly at 20 mph, becoming gusty, and the barometer was falling through 29.26 inches of mercury (in/Hg).

According to the Feb. 7 NWS forecast, today’s weather (Friday, Feb. 17) is expected to be sunny and calm with a high of about 46 degrees. Tonight, will be partly cloudy with a low of about 20 degrees. Day length will be 10 hours and 42 minutes, night length 13 hours and 18 minutes.

Saturday is forecast to be sunny, seasonably warm, and calm with a high of about 47. Saturday night will be mostly cloudy and breezy with a low of about 27.

Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny and breezy with a high of about 48 before becoming mostly cloudy in the evening. Sunday night’s low is expected to fall to about 27.

Washington’s Birthday is expected to be cooler, breezy, and will feature a chance of snow. The daily high should top out at about 43. The chance of snow will remain overnight, and the mercury is expected to fall to about 20. Due to the dynamic nature of weather, forecasts beyond 48-72 hours are inexact.

At Kimball the Feb. 7-13 daytime high averaged 38 degrees, about 7.19 degrees warmer than last week. The weekly high temperature was 48 degrees on Feb. 13. Overnight lows averaged 14.9 degrees, about 3.9 degrees warmer than last week. The weekly low temperature was 5 degrees on Feb. 10. The weekly mean temperature at Kimball was 26.4 degrees, about 4.5 degrees warmer than last week and 1.7 degrees cooler than the February average of 28.1 degrees. The 129-year month-to-date (Feb. 1-17) average daily temperature is 26.8. The highest Feb. 1-17 daily average was 41.3 degrees in 1954, with the lowest 6.8 in 1905. The 130-year average high and low temperatures at Kimball for February are 42.2 and 14.1, respectively.

Total liquid precipitation at Kimball over the Feb. 7-13 period was 0.06 inches of snow on Feb. 8-9.

Winds near Kimball averaged south southwesterly and occasionally gusty over the Feb. 7-13 period. Gusts for the week averaged 22 mph. High gust for the week was 43 mph on Feb. 6.


Historic climate data

Here’s an overview of Feb. 17 temperature and precipitation highs, lows, and averages over the preceding 130 years at Kimball. Data is taken from the High Plains Regional Climate Center (www.hprcc.unl.edu), where you can find and track data for your own particular location.

Last year (Feb. 17, 2022): Daily high temperature 31 degrees, overnight low 7 degrees, average temperature 19 degrees. Precipitation zero inches, snowfall zero inches, snow depth zero inches.

The warmest Feb. 17 on record was 68 degrees in 1970. The coolest Feb. 17 high temperature was -2 degrees in 1936. The coldest Feb. 17 overnight low was -16 degrees in 1993. The warmest Feb. 17 overnight low was 36 degrees in 1991. Over the years since 1893 the high temperature on Feb. 17 has averaged 42 degrees, the overnight low 14 degrees, the daily average 28.1 degrees, precipitation has averaged 0.01 inches, snowfall 0.2 inches, snow depth zero inches.

The highest Feb. 17 precipitation total was 0.41 inches (snow) in 1962. Highest snowfall was 4 inches in 1962, highest snow depth 5 inches in 1980.


USDA Weekly Weather Bulletin, Feb. 14

Active weather continued in the South and parts of the Midwest, although temperatures were considerably higher than those observed in late January and early February. As a result, significant snow was confined to a narrow band extending northeastward from the east-central Plains. Weekly rainfall totals topped 4 inches in several areas, including parts of northern Florida, southern Georgia, and central and southern Mississippi. Moderate flooding developed along the Pearl River, south of Jackson, Mississippi. Another area of four-inch rainfall totals stretched from northeastern Texas into Arkansas. Meanwhile, much of the remainder of the country received little or no precipitation. Much of the nation’s midsection was dry, except across the southeastern Plains. In the East, mostly dry areas were limited to southern Florida and an area stretching from the central Appalachians into the mid-Atlantic and southern New England. In the West, notable precipitation was mostly confined to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies, although light amounts were observed as far south as California and the southern Rockies.

Lingering cold weather was mostly limited to the Southwest, Intermountain West, and central and southern Rockies, while near- or above-normal temperatures covered the remainder of the country. Weekly temperatures averaged more than 10 degrees above normal in North Dakota and portions of neighboring states. Readings also averaged at least 10 degrees above normal in parts of the lower Great Lakes region and environs.


USDA Monthly Crop Progress Reports

Nebraska and Wyoming weekly crop progress reports will begin in April. Winter monthly reports will be released on Jan. 30, Feb. 27, and March 27. Colorado weekly crop progress reports will begin in March. Winter monthly reports will be released on Jan. 30 and Feb. 27.


U.S. Drought Monitor

USDM reports derive normals/averages from the most recent 30-year period, though longer timescale data are used where available. The USDM generally reports on current drought conditions and offers a comprehensive history of drought across the Continental U.S. Near-term temperature and precipitation predictions derive from National Weather Service (NWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts.

Current drought status for the Nebraska Panhandle, Southwest Wyoming, and Northeast Colorado. Drought Categories: D0 – abnormally dry. D1 – moderate drought. D2 – severe drought. D3 – extreme drought. D4 – exceptional drought.

(Feb. 7, 2023) The majority of the country was drier than normal for the week with only areas of the southern Plains, South, and Southeast seeing precipitation that was above normal. Dry conditions were prominent over the central and northern Plains, Midwest, Northeast and Southwest. Most of the country experienced cooler-than-normal temperatures with the greatest departure from normal over the central Rocky Mountains. Warmer-than-normal conditions were observed over the northern Rocky Mountains and in the Southeast with departures of 5-10 degrees above normal. A reassessment of conditions took place for many locations in the West to analyze the current drought intensity levels compared to the suite of indices and indicators used each week. Some adjustments were made based on this analysis and not directly related to anything that took place during the last week.


High Plains: Most of the region was dry for the week with just some light precipitation over eastern Wyoming and surrounding areas. Temperatures were cooler than normal from eastern Colorado through western Kansas and into Nebraska as well as the eastern areas of the Dakotas where temperatures were up to 5 degrees below normal. Temperatures were near normal to slightly above normal through the central to western Dakotas, eastern Wyoming and eastern Kansas. Minimal changes were made this week as only areas of southeast Wyoming improved with a reduction of severe and exceptional drought. Some improvements to severe drought were brought into western North Dakota based on reassessing the data going back a couple of years.


West: Most of the region had a dry week with below-normal precipitation. The exceptions were in California and Nevada with the Sierras picking up above-normal precipitation. Some coastal areas of California were at- to slightly-above normal from the central to northern portions of the coast. Areas of northwest Washington as well as south-central Washington into northeast Oregon also recorded above-normal precipitation. Temperatures were cooler than normal over much of the region with departures of 10-15 degrees below normal over Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho. Warmer-than-normal temperatures were observed over much of Montana with departures of 5-10 degrees above normal. With a quieter week in the West, a reassessment of drought intensity levels was made over portions of the region where data and indicators were analyzed going back to the last 3-5 years. In areas where there was not a consensus of support for the current drought intensity levels, improvements were made to better reflect where the data were pointing. For the reassessment, severe and extreme drought levels were reduced in Montana and Utah while moderate drought was improved over portions of California and Nevada. Acknowledging that some of these areas are still being impacted by long-term drought issues, the new depiction is better supported by the data. Some of these areas had minimal data support for the new drought intensity levels and this process may need to continue. Improvements were made in western Wyoming based on the short-term while degradation took place in portions of western and northern Oregon as the short-term has been especially dry.


Near-term forecast: The 6-10-day outlook (through Feb. 17) favors above normal over the eastern half of the country with the greatest probabilities of above-normal temperatures over the Northeast. Temperatures are anticipated to be cooler than normal over much of the West and Alaska. Much of the country is showing a high probability of above-normal precipitation, with the best chances of above-normal precipitation anticipated to be over the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. There are above-normal chances of below-normal precipitation over northern Alaska and the Big Bend region of Texas.


Terminology: EDDI – Evaporative Demand Drought Index. This is an experimental model for drought prediction, using nationwide data from 1980-present. SPI – Standardized Precipitation Index, correlating present month/year precipitation with 30-plus year historical data. SPEI – Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index. SWE – Snow Water Equivalent.

For more information on the U.S. Drought Monitor, including an explanation of terminology, visit: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

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