Slow warming and light snow as March arrives

KIMBALL – Last month began with a bit of weather folklore when Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted another six weeks of winter. While February featured some lovely warm days, as the month neared its end, bitter weather returned with sub-zero temperatures and widespread snowfall.
Weather folklore attends the beginning of March as well, with the old saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” The early-March forecast does call for breezy conditions and blustery cold, so the first part of the old saying may be correct.

Regional Forecast and Conditions
As of Tuesday morning (Feb. 27), the temperature at sunrise was 22 F. degrees under clear skies. Wind was westerly at 5 mph. The day was expected to remain clear and warming with the temperature rising to about 44 degrees before falling to about 23 degrees overnight.
Today (Friday) skies are forecast to be sunny with a high temperature of 56 degrees and an overnight low of 26. Saturday is expected to be much the same, with a high of 52 and a low of 22. Sunday is forecast to be cooler with a chance of snow showers. Sunday’s high temperature will likely fall just short of 40 degrees and the overnight low is expected to fall into the teens.
Monday through Wednesday are forecast to be breezy and cooler, with daytime highs ranging in the 30’s and overnight lows falling into the teens. There is also a small chance of snow showers during this period.
Daytime air temperatures cooled sharply across the region during the last week. On Feb. 21, across eleven Panhandle reporting stations minimum temperatures averaged -17 degrees, with Alliance reporting a frigid -27 degrees. At Kimball the Feb. 20-26 daytime high averaged 28.85 degrees about 19.5 degrees cooler than the previous week. The weekly high temperature was 51 degrees on Feb. 26. Overnight lows cooled sharply as well, averaging 5.0 degrees, about 11.7 degrees cooler than the previous week. The weekly low temperature was -16 degrees on Feb. 21. The weekly mean temperature was 16.92 degrees, about 15 degrees cooler than the previous week, and 12.5 degrees cooler than the February average of 29.4 degrees. The long-term average high and low temperatures at Kimball for February are 43.0 and 15.7, respectively.
More snow fell across the region last week. Across the Panhandle over the Feb. 20-26 period only Big Springs reported zero precipitation. Harrison reported the greatest quantity with 7.7 inches snow for 0.61 inches liquid equivalent. Sidney reported the least with 2 inches snow for 0.13 inches Liquid equivalent. Across the Panhandle snowfall averaged 3.38 inches and liquid equivalent precipitation averaged 0.20 inches. Last week’s averages were 2.26 and 0.11 inches respectively.
Soil temperatures fell across the Panhandle over the Feb. 20-26 period: (this week/last week/change): Alliance 27.8/30.8 (-3.0) degrees; Gordon 28.9/30.7 (-1.8) degrees; Mitchell 30.4/30.5 (-0.1) degrees; Scottsbluff 30.4/30.7 (-0.3); and Sidney 28.6/30.5 (-1.9) degrees.
Winds near Kimball averaged westerly and occasionally breezy over the Feb. 20-26 period. Gusts for the week averaged 24.85 mph. High gust for the week was 46 mph on Feb. 24.

March 2 Weather Almanac
Here’s an overview of March 2 temperature and precipitation highs, lows, and averages over the preceding 124 years at Kimball. Data is taken from the High Plains Regional Climate Center (, where you can easily find and track data for your own particular location.
Last year (March 2, 2017): Daily high temperature 39 degrees, overnight low 16 degrees, average temperature 27.5 degrees. Precipitation zero inches, snowfall zero inches, snow depth zero inches.
The warmest March 2 on record was 72 degrees in 1992. The coolest March 2 high temperature was 5 degrees in 2014. The coldest March 2 overnight low was -16 degrees in 1943. The warmest March 2 overnight low was 40 degrees in 1910. Over the years since 1893 the high temperature on March 2 has averaged 46 degrees, the overnight low 19 degrees, the daily average 32.4 degrees, precipitation has averaged 0.02 inches, snowfall 0.2 inches, snow depth zero inches.
The highest March 2 precipitation total was 0.20 inches liquid equivalent in 1945. The greatest snowfall was 3.5 inches in 1945. Greatest snow depth was 6.0 inches in 1987.
Snow has fallen on March 2 at Kimball 24 times over the last 124 years, with quantities ranging from a trace to 3.5 inches.

U.S. Drought Monitor
High Plains: Several areas of precipitation fell in Wyoming (ranging from .25 inch to localized 2+ inches); the heaviest precipitation areas were in the Yellowstone/Teton high country and in the Snowy Range. No changes were made in Wyoming, as the snow in the Snowy Range prevented further degradation there.
Precipitation between .50 inch and 1 inch took place in the Dakotas, so no changes were made here, except for an expansion of abnormal dryness along the US 14 corridor in east-central South Dakota where seasonal precipitation deficits persisted.
Rains from the Midwest storm systems clipped southeast and parts of south-central Kansas with .25 inch to 1.5 inches of precipitation. A small area of .25-.50 inch of precipitation also fell in northwest Kansas. Moderate drought expanded into northeast Kansas because of persistent short- to medium-term seasonal precipitation deficits and abnormally warm temperatures in the last month.
West: A storm system moving through the southwest United States led to moderate or heavy precipitation in parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, with the heaviest Colorado precipitation taking place in the San Juan Mountains. Abnormally dry conditions in south-central New Mexico improved.
Heavier precipitation missed the Four Corners region, worsening the long-term precipitation deficits. Most of California and Nevada also remained dry this week.
Above-normal temperatures over the last few months, combined with precipitation deficits over most of the Southwest, led to the continuation of drought in much of the Southwest region. Moderate drought expanded through parts of the Sierra Nevada, where very low snowfall, short- and seasonal-range precipitation deficits, and warm temperatures so far this winter continued. Some ski areas have even closed because of the lack of snowfall. Abnormally dry conditions expanded through the rest of the Central Valley in California, where precipitation deficits over the water year and streamflow continued to degrade.
Moderate drought expanded over south-central Oregon, where short-term and water year precipitation deficits intensified.
National Summary: During the past week, large precipitation events affected the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, southern Plains, Midwest, Ohio Valley, Tennessee River Valley, and mid-Atlantic, alleviating drought conditions or preventing further degradations in these areas. An active storm track in the coming week is expected to bring additional precipitation in the central and southern United States, which may result in further drought reductions. Conditions degraded in some areas of the Desert Southwest and Intermountain West that missed out on the heavier precipitation, most notably the Sierra Nevada and the Four Corners.

Water supply forecast for the Western U.S. Overview
La Niña remained in control of North American weather patterns in mid- to late winter, helping to deflect the polar jet stream and most of its attendant storms across the nation’s northern tier and leaving little moisture for California, the Great Basin, and the Southwest. In mid-February storminess increased across parts of the Southwest. Until cooler weather arrived in mid-February, periods of record setting Western warmth have accompanied the La Niña-driven regime, further limiting high elevation snow accumulations. For example, the Sierra Nevada snowpack contained an average of just 4 inches of moisture by mid-February 2018, one-fifth of normal for date and lower than each of the mid-February values during the multi-year drought of 2011-12 to 2014-15.

Snowpack and Precipitation
As of Feb. 20, 2018, most Western basins had subpar snowpack. The snowpack situation was especially dire in California, Nevada, and Oregon, as well as the Southwest. Nearly all basins in the aforementioned areas had a snowpack that was less than 50 percent of the mid-February average, and a few basins in California, Arizona, and New Mexico were below 25 percent. Meanwhile, near- to above-normal snowpack was largely limited to Montana, Washington, and Wyoming, as well as northern Idaho.
Season-to-date precipitation (Oct. 1, 2017 – Feb. 20, 2018) was slightly better than snowpack, in part due to persistent warmth limiting accumulation of high-elevation snowpack. Still, precipitation was less than 50 percent of normal in many Southwestern basins, and less than 90 percent of normal in all of the West except Montana, Washington, Wyoming, and northern Idaho.

Spring and Summer Streamflow Forecasts
As of Feb. 1 projections for spring and summer streamflow were indicating the likelihood of near- or above-normal runoff only in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies. In other parts of the Northwest, including much of Oregon and southern Idaho, a lack of snow has reduced runoff potential, despite a periodically active weather pattern.
Meanwhile, the Southwest has only rarely received winter precipitation, leading to forecasts of abysmal spring and summer runoff—possibly less than 25 percent of the normal volume in several river basins.

Reservoir Storage
As of Feb. 1, 2018, reservoir storage as a percent of average for the date was substantially below average in New Mexico, and slightly below average in Arizona and Washington. Cumulative storage for this time of year was above average in all other Western States, including California. Despite a rather dry winter to date from California into the Southwest, reservoir storage continues to largely reflect bounteous runoff in the spring and summer of 2017.

U.S. Conditions and Weather Report
(Feb. 27) Relentless rains across the mid-South and lower Midwest sparked flash flooding and pushed creeks and streams out of their banks. By week’s end, runoff from fields and tributaries brought extensive flooding to larger rivers.
Precipitation also fell in several other regions, including the upper Midwest and much of the West. The upper Midwest and environs received significant snowfall, while an extensive snow cover (and additional accumulations) on the northern Plains provided winter wheat with insulation from sustained cold.
Weekly temperatures averaged at least 20 to 25 degrees below normal on the northern High Plains, but were at least 20 above normal in many locations from the central Gulf Coast States to the central Appalachians. The phenomenal Eastern warmth resulted in dozens of monthly record highs, especially from Feb. 20-22.
In the West, precipitation was heaviest across the northern half of the region. However, the combination of colder weather and periodic precipitation helped to boost high-elevation snowpack, especially in the northern Intermountain West.
Elsewhere, dry weather was confined to just a few areas, including southern California, the Desert Southwest, and the lower Southeast. Also mostly dry were the drought-stricken southern High Plains, where rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat continued to suffer due to a lack of moisture.
(Feb. 20, report delayed due to federal holiday) Late-week showers on the southern Plains ended several record-setting streaks without measurable precipitation but did not change the drought situation or appreciably benefit winter wheat.
Farther west some of the season’s heaviest precipitation fell across the Four Corners States, boosting topsoil moisture. However, the Southwest’s snowpack remained anemic, maintaining concerns about spring and summer runoff. Precipitation also fell in the Northwest but mostly bypassed California.
Meanwhile, mostly dry weather prevailed from the central Plains into the upper Midwest. On the northern Plains, ample snow fell to insulate winter wheat from sub-zero temperatures. A rather dramatic contrast in temperatures featured bitterly cold weather on the northern High Plains (generally 10 to 15 degrees below normal) and record-setting warmth in the Southeast (at least 10 to 15 degrees above normal). Early-week temperatures dipped to 0 or below as far south as Nebraska, Iowa, and northern Illinois.
Elsewhere, significant precipitation (1 to 3 inches) fell from the mid-South into the Ohio Valley, the northern Mid-Atlantic States, and southern New England. Heavy rain also fell in parts of the lower Southeast, but bypassed Florida’s peninsula.

USDA Weekly Weather and Crop Reports
Soil moisture supplies declined during the month of February due to dry, windy weather and both warm and cold temperature extremes. Statewide, continued dry conditions were very concerning for pasture and winter wheat conditions. Nearly all counties in the state experienced at least abnormally dry conditions.
Reporters in eastern counties noted little snow cover on winter wheat along with cold, windy weather which caused some fields to blow were troubling for the crop. They also noted small snow storms were beneficial, but much more moisture is needed going into spring.
In the San Luis Valley, dry conditions were prevalent with supplemental feeding of livestock increasing due to pasture conditions.
Reporters in southwestern counties noted some good moisture was received late in the month, but many areas continued to suffer from severe to extreme drought. The winter wheat crop in Montezuma county was reported to be in extremely poor condition with high rates of failure.
Statewide, calving and lambing was underway with livestock noted to be in mostly good condition.
As of Feb. 23, 2018, snowpack in Colorado was at 73 percent measured as percent of median snowfall.

For the month of February 2018, topsoil moisture supplies rated 4 percent very short, 22 short, 72 adequate, and 2 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 3 percent very short, 28 short,
68 adequate, and 1 surplus.
Winter wheat condition rated 0 percent very poor, 5 poor, 52 fair, 38 good, and 5 excellent.

Wyoming experienced below freezing temperatures for the month. Six of the 34 reporting stations reported above average temperatures for the month with the high temperature of 65 degrees recorded at LaGrange, and a low of 33 degrees below zero at Lake Yellowstone.
Above normal moisture was reported at twenty of the reporting stations with two stations (Big Piney and Rawlins) reporting no precipitation. Lake Yellowstone reported the most moisture with 3.27 inches.
Hay and roughage supplies for Wyoming were rated 2 percent very short, 12 percent short, 81 percent adequate and 5 percent surplus.
Stock water supplies across Wyoming were rated 10 percent very short, 20 percent short, and 70 percent adequate.

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