April 2011 Climate Summary for Lubbock and Childress

Temperature

April was a very warm month throughout the South Plains region, with both Lubbock and Childress recording average temperatures that were well above normal and that ranked among the top 10 highest on record. In fact, highs only failed to reach the 70-degree plateau (around the seasonable average for April) three to four times during the entire month. In addition, no freezes were recorded at either site. The month began with a significant warming trend as strong southwesterly winds brought very warm, dry air into the area during the first weekend of the month. Temperatures soared from the 80s on the 1st  into the 90s on the 2nd and 3rd. Lubbock set record highs on both days with readings of 92 and 94 on the 2nd and 3rd respectively. Meanwhile at Childress, the temperature soared to 102 degrees on the 3rd, setting a new record for that day and tying the all-time high temperature for the site for the month of April! The only other time the mercury rose to 102 degrees in Childress was April 12, 1972! A strong cold front blasted through the region during the early morning hours of the 4th, bringing a brief halt to the warm temperatures as highs only peaked in the upper 50s and lower 60s. However, after early morning lows dropped into the upper 30s on the 5th, temperatures jumped back into the 80s and eventually the 90s from the 6th through the 9th as southwesterly winds increased ahead of an approaching storm system from the west. On the 9th, another record was broken at Childress as the mercury soared to 100 degrees. The combination of these very warm and dry conditions along with the strong winds helped to promote another very large wildfire outbreak across the South Plains region.

Another cold front passed through the area on the 10th, cooling highs back into the 70s and 80s through the 16th. However another sharp warm up occurred from the 17th-19th as highs climbed back into the 90s across the region, with Childress once again setting a record high of 100 degrees on the 18th. The warm conditions and the strong winds ahead of an approaching storm system once again promoted a high wildfire danger across the area and another active wildfire day. Despite a brief cool down from another cold front that passed through the region on the 20th, highs generally rebounded back into the upper 70s to the 80s (with a couple of days hitting 90+ degrees) for the rest of the month at Lubbock. At Childress, there were a few more fluctuations in temperature during the latter part of the month as a backdoor cold front nudged into the southeastern Panhandle on a couple of occasions. In addition, Childress was sometimes east of a sloshing dryline that had setup across the region. This helped to enhance a moist upslope flow, keeping moisture and more cloud cover in place off of the Caprock. Thus, temperatures at Childress only reached the 60s and 70s on a few days, while readings in the 80s to lower 90s were common further west. One last dramatic warm up occurred on the 29th  ahead of an approaching storm system as southwesterly winds helped to push temperatures into the mid to upper 90s. Lubbock set a record high of 97 degrees that day, while Childress just missed setting another record. A cold front passed through the area on the 30th, bringing much cooler temperatures to start off the month of May.

NOTE: Some temperature data for Childress exists before 1928 and goes as far back as the 1890s. However it is a very incomplete record, with many large gaps in the data before 1928 (some as large as 20 years). Therefore, this analysis will only compare the observations from April 2011 to data from the complete temperature record which is from 1928-present. 

 

April 2011 temperature graphs for Lubbock (LBB) and Childress (CDS). The red bars indicate the actual observed daily high and low temperatures and the extended black lines denote the daily record highs and lows. Any record high temperatures set are denoted in yellow. Three daily high temperature records were broken at Lubbock and Childress in April! Click on the images for a larger version!
 
April Statistics Lubbock Childress
Average Monthly Temperature  65.4  67.1
Normal April Temperature  60.0  61.5
Deviation From Normal  5.4 Above
 5.6 Above
Monthly Ranking  5th Warmest
 7th Warmest
Warmest April  67.1 (1946)  68.3 (1946)
Coolest April  53.5 (1920)  54.9 (1973)
Highest Temperature (April 2011)  97 on the 29th  102 on the 3rd
Lowest Temperature (April 2011)  37 on the 28th  
 35 on the 16th
All-Time Highest Temperature

 100 (April 22, 1989)

         (April 16, 1925)

 102 (April 3, 2011)

         (April 12, 1972)

All-Time Lowest Temperature  18 (April 4, 1920)  22 (April 2, 1936)
Record Highs (April 2011)

 92 on the 2nd

 94 on the 3rd

 97 on the 29th

 102 on the 3rd

 100 on the 9th

 100 on the 18th

Record Lows (April 2011)  None  None

 

Precipitation

April 2011 was characterized as very abnormally dry across all of western Texas as drought conditions worsened significantly over the month due to the lack of any appreciable rainfall. It was the driest April on record for Lubbock! For the first time since records were kept in 1911, no measureable precipitation fell at the observing site or even within the city limits. At Childress, the situation was not much better as only 0.02” of rainfall was observed, making it the 4th driest April on record there. The precipitation that did fall was a result of some dense low cloud cover and fog that produced some light rain showers at the Childress airport. As a result of the very dry conditions across the region, severe to extreme drought conditions developed across the area during the month. Extreme drought conditions are fairly rare and have the probability of occurring once every 20-50 years. As a result of the worsening drought, fuels such as grasses, mesquite, and juniper became extremely stressed and reached record levels of dryness during the month. These extremely dry fuels act as kindling to wildfires and along with the very strong winds, allow them to grow and spread rapidly once they are initiated. Thus given the state of these fuels, an elevated fire danger exists across the region even on non-windy days. Sadly, very little improvement is expected as we begin the month of May as these drought conditions are expected to persist (and could potentially worsen) if the region does not begin to experience any meaningful rainfall.

April Statistics Lubbock Childress
Total Precipitation  0.00"  0.02"
Normal Precipitation  1.29"  2.01"
Departure From Normal  1.29" Below
 1.99" Below
Monthly Ranking  Driest on Record
 4th Driest (since 1924)
Wettest April  6.18" (1915)  8.72" (1997)
Driest April  0.00" (2011)  0.00" (1996, 1955)
Wettest Day (2011)  None  0.02" on the 25th
All-Time Wettest April Day  2.54" (April 16, 2010)  3.00" (April 9, 1942)

 

April Statistics Lubbock Childress
Total Snowfall  0.0"  0.0"
Normal Snowfall  0.2"  0.2"
Departure From Normal  0.2" Below  0.2" Below
Monthly Ranking  Tied For Least Snowiest  Tied For Least Snowiest
Snowiest April  6.8" (1942)  10.0" (1938)
Snowiest Day (2011)  None  None
All-Time Snowiest Day  6.0" (April 9, 1942)  10.0" (April 9, 1938)

 

 Wind

April Statistics Lubbock Childress
Average Wind Speed (mph)  15.0  14.3
Normal Wind Speed (mph)  14.7  13.8
Highed Sustained Wind Speed (mph)  45 on the 29th
 57 on the 15th
Highest Wind Gust (mph)  68 on the 29th
 67 on the 15th

 

The Monthly Outlook for May from the Climate Prediction Center



The monthly temperature outlook for May indicates a higher probability of above normal temperatures for the southern Texas Panhandle, South Plains, and Rolling Plains. Click on the image for a larger version! 
The monthly precipitation outlook for May indicates a higher probability of below normal precipitation for the southern Texas Panhandle, South Plains, and Rolling Plains. Click on the image for a larger version!

 

 The latest drought outlook for the state of Texas:


As of early May, drought conditions were continuing to worsen across all of Texas. D-2 (Severe) to D-3 (Extreme) drought conditions are now prevailing across the entire South Plains region. 100% of the state was experiencing D1 (Moderate) drought or higher, making it the first time in the 10-year history of the drought monitor that this has occurred. Also, 94% of the state was in a D-2 (Severe) drought or higher, and about 40% of the state had entered a D-3 (Extreme) drought. In addition, 17% of the state (Big Bend into the Permian Basin) was experiencing D-4 (Exceptional) drought, the highest category possible. These drought conditions are extremely rare, with the probability of extreme drought occurring on the order of every 20-50 years and exceptional drought every 50-100 years! Click on the image for a larger version!

 

The latest seasonal drought outlook for the United States:


Given the higher probabilities for below normal precipitation in May, drought conditions are expected to persist or worsen  across all of southern and central Texas. Click on the image for a larger version!

 


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