December 2011 Climate Summary for Lubbock and Childress

Temperature

The last month of 2011 was vastly different than the previous eleven months of the calendar year as temperatures were well below normal for the month at both Lubbock and Childress. The first month of meteorological winter was punctuated by prolonged cold spells and several storm systems that impacted the region, helping to push the average temperature for the month almost three degrees below normal at Lubbock and one degree below normal at Childress. This snapped the streak of 16 straight months in which the region had experienced above normal temperatures for a month, dating back to August 2010. In fact, the magnitude of the colder temperatures was so great at Lubbock that despite the record warmth during the summer, for the calendar year, 2011 will actually finish second to 1934 for the title of warmest year on record!  

As mentioned, some persistent cold air pushed into the region, thanks to several upper-level storms systems that moved across the area from the Pacific. The month began with a strong cold front dropping through the area on the afternoon of the 1st, followed by a strong storm system that brought moisture and dense cloud cover, keeping temperatures in the lower to mid-30s for the entire day on the 2nd. After a brief warm up to near normal temperatures on the 3rd, another cold front swept into the area on the 4th, pushing high temperatures initially back into the 40s and eventually the 30s and even the 20s at Lubbock and other portions of the area on the 6th. In addition, low temperatures also cratered to the single digits at Lubbock (9 degrees) for the first time since February, while locations across the SW Panhandle counties actually fell to as low as -4 degrees!

For the remainder for the month, highs fluctuated between some brief warm-ups into the 50s, followed by some longer bouts of cooler temperatures in the 30s in the wake of cold frontal passages. However, despite the lower daytime high temperatures, any bitterly cold arctic air remained well to the north of the region as low temperatures generally remained in the 20s to low 30s through the entire rest of the month. Some of the more pronounced warm ups occurred on the 7th and 8th when highs reached the mid to upper 50s and on the 13th and 14th where highs approached 60 degrees at Lubbock and reached 64 degrees at Childress. At the very end of the month, another dramatic warm-up occurred on the 29th as daytime highs finally exceeded the 60-degree plateau at Lubbock for the first time in December. Two days later, record highs were set at both Lubbock and Childress as the mercury soared to 76 and 83 degrees respectively on New Year’s Eve day. This was certainly an ironic way to close out that month, as it was one of the colder Decembers on record across the area. Still, it was very fitting that the extremely warm and dry year of 2011 ended with yet another temperature record being broken!  

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

December 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. Record high temperatures are denoted in yellow.  Click on the image for a larger view!


  

December Statistics Lubbock Childress
Average Monthly Temperature  37.9  41.3
Normal December Temperature  40.6  42.0
Deviation From Normal  2.7 Below
 0.7 Below
Monthly Ranking  15th Coldest (since 1914)  27th Coldest (since 1928)
Warmest December
 48.0 (1933)
 47.4 (1965)
Coolest December
 31.7 (1983)
 27.7 (1983)
Highest Temperature (December 2011)  76 on the 31st
 83 on the 31st
Lowest Temperature (December 2011)  9 on the 6th
 19 on the 6th
All-Time Highest Temperature

 83 (December 6, 1939)     

 88 (December 4, 1954)       

All-Time Lowest Temperature

 -2 (December 22, 1989)

     (December 28, 1924)  

  -5 (December 23, 1989)      

Record Highs (December 2011)

 76 on the 31st

 83 on the 31st

Record Lows (December 2011)  None  None

* Period valid (1928-2011)

 

Precipitation

Conditions were wetter than normal across the entire South Plains region in December, making this the first month since July 2010 where this occurred at BOTH Lubbock and Childress. December was a very active month weather wise compared to the rest of the year as several storm systems pushed across the region. Given some increased moisture that was in place across the area, some very beneficial rainfall occurred across the entire region during the month as those various storm systems moved through the region.

The first widespread precipitation event occurred from the 2nd through the 5th as a slow moving upper-storm system pushed across the area. Ahead of the system, cold, cloudy, foggy and damp conditions prevailed across the region on the 2nd through the early morning hours on the 3rd. Although precipitation was light and generally limited to areas of drizzle and freezing drizzle, it did create some hazardous travel conditions. More widespread and intense precipitation fell, generally in the form of showers and thunderstorms, during the early morning our on the 3rd as an upper-level trough raced through the area, producing a quick quarter to half an inch of rain across much of the area. As the upper-low pressure system pushed through the area late on the 4th through the morning hours on the 5th, additional rounds of wintery precipitation occurred. Some locations did experience periods of rain and sleet during the evening of the 4th, but the dominate mode quickly became snow, with a trace to several inches of snow falling across most of the region by Monday morning. Periods of snow and flurries continued through much of the day on the 5th, with additional accumulations of a trace to a couple inches being common, before the snow came to an end that evening.

Another strong winter storm brought widespread beneficial precipitation to the South Plains region between the evening of 18th to the morning of the 20th. Precipitation fell mainly in the form of showers and thunderstorms, though even a little snow mixed in.  A good quarter to half of an inch of rain fell across the entire region, with localized higher amounts. The Lubbock airport officially recorded 0.58" of liquid, while the Childress airport received 0.32". The upper-level storm continued to advance to the northeast across the Texas Panhandle on the night of the 19th while at the same time the cold front plunged southward through the South Plains. This allowed the precipitation to change over to snow across the entire Texas Panhandle as well as into the South Plains. However, by this time, the precipitation intensity waned. Still, a few locations including Muleshoe, Friona, Hart and Dimmitt did report anywhere between a half inch and an inch of snow. 

Yet another strong upper-level low pressure system slowly pushed into western Texas Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, bringing snowfall and a rare white Christmas to the entire southern plains region. A solid 1-3" of snow fell across most of the region, with lighter amounts over the extreme southeastern Panhandle and eastern Rolling Plains. There was also a fairly large snow band that set up early Christmas Eve morning into the mid-afternoon that produced heavier snowfall across the western and northern South Plains. The greatest snowfall amounts occurred in an area stretching from Cochran and southern Bailey counties north and east through northern Hockley, southern Lamb, and southern Hale Counties, where accumulations of 6" or greater were common. The heaviest band of snow occurred along a narrow line stretching from Littlefield to Spade to Cotton Center where between 9-10" of snow was measured. Additionally, locally heavy snow showers developed across the southern Panhandle on Christmas Day and produced between 2-4" of snow across Parmer, Castro, Swisher and Briscoe counties, before tapering off later that evening. One final snow band developed early on the 26th and produced an additional 1- 2" over parts of the southwest Panhandle into the northwest South Plains. 

The precipitation that occurred during the month of December did provide some improvement to the exceptional drought that has been plaguing the region for the past year. As a result, the entire Southern Plains has been removed from the D-4 (Exceptional) drought category. The greatest improvement has been across the southern Panhandle and northern Rolling Plains where the abnormally wet December combined with a wetter October and November to drop the status across these areas to D-1 (Moderate) to D-2 (Severe). However, a vast majority of the South Plains and lower Rolling Plains still remains in D-3 (Extreme) drought status, though this is some improvement from the exceptional drought conditions that have persisted for the better half of the year. Despite some recent beneficial rainfall, very dry conditions still exist across much of western Texas and fuels such as grasses, mesquite, and juniper continue to be stressed. These extremely dry fuels act as kindling to wildfires and along with very strong winds, allow them to grow and spread rapidly once they are initiated. Given the continued dry fuels, an elevated fire danger continues to exist across the entire region. Unfortunately, despite some of the recent rainfall events, drought conditions will continue this winter and could worsen heading into the spring if the region does not continue experience some appreciable rainfall in the coming weeks. 

December Statistics Lubbock Childress
Total Precipitation  1.52"  1.30"
Normal Precipitation  0.76"  0.91"
Departure From Normal  0.76" Above  0.39" Above
Monthly Ranking  14th Wettest (since 1911)  22nd Wettest (since 1924)
Wettest December  2.70" (1942)  5.05" (1932)
Driest December  0.00" (last occurred in 2010)  0.00" (last occurred in 2008)
Wettest Day (2011)  0.58" on the 19th  0.69" on the 2nd
All-Time Wettest December Day  1.50" (December 21, 1942)  3.60" (December 23, 1932)

 

December Statistics Lubbock Childress
Total Snowfall  4.0"  Trace
Normal Snowfall  2.3"  1.7"
Departure From Normal  1.7 Above
 1.7 Below
Monthly Ranking  23rd Snowiest  Tied For Least Snowiest
Snowiest December  10.5" (1942)  24.0" (1931)
Snowiest Day (December 2011)  2.0" on the 24th
 Trace on the 25th
All-Time Snowiest December Day  9.5" (December 6, 1942)  11.0" (December 2, 1971)

 
  Winds

November Statistics Lubbock Childress
Average Wind Speed (mph)  10.8  9.8
Normal Wind Speed (mph)  12.4  11.7
Highed Sustained Wind Speed (mph)  35 on the 30th  41 on the 31st
Highest Wind Gust (mph)  44 on the 31st  61 on the 31st

 

The Outlook for January, February, and March from the Climate Prediction Center



The three-month temperature outlook for the winter and early spring 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 three-month precipitation outlook for the winter and early spring indicates a higher probablity 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 January, drought conditions were persisting across all of Texas, though some improvement did occur in some areas during the autumn and early winter as the entire southern Plains region dropped to D-3 (Extreme) drought status or lower. However,100% of the state was experiencing D-0 (Abnormally Dry) drought or higher. Also, 97% of the state was in a D-2 (Severe) drought or higher, and about 85% of the state had entered a D-3 (Extreme) drought. In addition, 32% of the state was still 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 this winter, severe to extreme drought conditions are expected to persist or even worsen across much of the Lone Star State. Click on the image for a larger version!

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