Nebraska Fall May See More Precipitation, But Threat Of Freeze Limited

Forecast for next 90 days shows potential for above-average precipitation in eastern Nebraska.

Published on: Oct 1, 2013

Nebraska will see an uptick in precipitation just as harvest is getting underway, according to Al Dutcerh, University of Nebraska-Lincoln climatologist says.

But Dutcher says that an early frost shouldn't be an issue for most of Nebraska.

"We have a strong monsoonal flow still holding on in the desert southwest," Dutcher says. "We've seen heavy precipitation through the southern and central Rockies with mass flooding. As upper air troughs push into the Central Plains, they are bumping up against this tropical moisture and therefore we get stationary thunderstorm development, which are high precipitation events. Secondarily these are falling on areas that have been burnt by forest fires the past couple years so a lot the precipitation is running off and compounding the flood threat."

Nebraska Fall May See More Precipitation, But Threat Of Freeze Limited
Nebraska Fall May See More Precipitation, But Threat Of Freeze Limited

The monsoonal flow has expanded to the western high plains of Kansas and parts of Texas. Western Nebraska also sits on the northern perimeter of this, he says.

"We do have some potential of seeing improvements in soil moisture levels based on this monsoon flow," Dutcher adds.

The brief battle with extreme heat is over, but there could still be a day or two this fall that will hit the 90-degree mark, particularly in Western Nebraska.

"And when we get these swings in temperatures, we have the ability to generate precipitation," Dutcher says.

The 90-day forecast for the eastern half of the state is for above-normal precipitation. The rest of the state has equal chances of above, normal or below precipitation.

"Unfortunately, in order to get soil moisture built up this fall, it is going to come at a price, and we would expect to see some harvest delays if the model projections are correct."

"We have entered the favorable period when tropical systems generally move up the Baja Peninsula and enhance desert precipitation," Dutcher says. "While it might not eliminate the drought, it will moisten up those lower levels of the atmosphere and that will aid in suppression of the semi-permanent riding pattern."

It also will allow troughs to deepen into the central and southern Rockies and will likely enhance precipitation patterns across the central and southern Rockies and adjacent High Plains regions.

This could help increase soil moisture levels and be a positive for winter wheat planting. There is nothing to indicate this would continue through winter and spring, but if this pattern does continue, the state could experience an "interesting winter," Dutcher says.

In addition, future precipitation events will fall on areas that currently have saturated soils. This should enhance snowmelt next spring as a greater portion of the water in that snow goes to runoff instead of soil infiltration.

As far as the state's first freeze, it may be slightly early in the eastern half of the state, but Dutcher doesn't think it will be a problem as far as growing conditions are concerned.

The Panhandle and north central part of the state typically see the first freeze around Oct. 7-10. In the southeast part of Nebraska, the freeze date typically is around Oct. 17-24.

For more information about weather and crops, visit CropWatch, UNL Extension's crop production newsletter, at cropwatch.unl.edu