Plains outlook indicates moisture shortfall

Regina Bird

Outside of some short stints of cold air, it seems we have escaped the worst of old man winter so far in much of the Plains.

Let’s start with a look back at the end of 2021. Although we typically only look back on the past month, it is worth noting that December 2021 was one for the record books. The United States as a whole recorded its warmest December on record. Ten states individually also notched their warmest December since record keeping began including: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

Looking ahead, an area stretching from Texas into Kansas is favored for above average temperatures for February.

That trend remains through the next three months for that area and even expands farther north into southern Nebraska.

Precipitation will likely be lacking in February for most of Texas, western Oklahoma and southwest Kansas.

Through April, precipitation totals will continue to fall below seasonal norms for most of Texas, western Oklahoma and western Kansas, along with western Nebraska.

This is an unfortunate outlook as drought conditions remain steadily in place in a majority of the Plains states.

In January, Amarillo, Texas ended an 80-day stretch where no measurable precipitation fell. This is the second longest on record for that city, according to the National Weather Service.

The long-term trends with precipitation will likely keep most of the southern to central Plains continuing to deal with some degree of drought.

One outlier with the lack of moisture last month was a heavy snow event on Jan. 25 in west central Kansas. Several reports came in of over 20 inches of snow with the highest reported at Mount Sunflower with 27 inches and that report was before snow had stopped falling there.

La Niña still remains in place as indicated by atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Forecasts point toward a continuation of La Niña through the first part of spring before we could see a transition to ENSO-Neutral.

I’m always keeping an eye to the sky—and the weather patterns—so watch for next month’s update.

Editor’s note: Regina Bird grew up on a farm near Belleville, Kansas. The views from the farm helped spur her interest in weather. Following high school, she went on to get a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Kansas. She currently works as a meteorologist for NTV and KFXL in central Nebraska. Follow her on Twitter: @ReginaBirdWX