May 2011 Climate Summary for Lubbock and Childress

Temperature

May was another a very warm month across the South Plains region, with both Lubbock and Childress recording average temperatures that were well above normal and that ranked among the top 20 warmest on record. However, with the multiple record highs that were set during the month (five at Childress and three at Lubbock), it is a bit surprising that neither site ranked among the top 10 warmest on record. This may have to do with a couple of factors. May began with very unseasonably cool temperatures with highs in the upper 50s and 60s and lows in the 30s. There was also a period of seven to eight days in mid-May where highs were closer to seasonable averages and lows were below seasonable averages (in the 40s and 50s). Additionally, it has been so dry across the region that low temperatures in general have been able to cool off to near seasonable averages for most the month, helping to skew the overall average monthly temperature lower than expected.

As mentioned, the month of May began with very unseasonably cool temperatures as an upper-level low pressure system rotated over the area, promoting cloudy conditions and cool temperatures. The low temperature on the 3rd reached the freezing mark at Lubbock and a harder freeze was observed across the southwestern Panhandle and northern South Plains as readings in the upper 20s to around 30 degrees were observed there. However, a strong warming trend began on the 4th as an upper-level ridge of high pressure began to dominate the weather across the region. As a result, highs warmed back into the 70s and 80s. Heading into Mother's Day weekend on the 6th, 7th, and 8th, temperatures soared into the mid to upper 90s on the Caprock and well over 100 degrees off of the Caprock. A record high of 97 degrees was set at Lubbock on the 9th and the temperature reached 99 degrees on both the 7th and 8th. At Childress, the second warmest May temperature ever recorded occurred on the 8th when the mercury reached 107 degrees. Another record of 105 degrees was set the very next day on the 9th at Childress as well.

A cool down occurred heading into the week of the 10th as a couple of potent upper-level troughs moved out of the Rockies, driving a series of fronts through the area. As a result, daytime highs fell closer to seasonable averages into the 70s and 80s, with overnight lows dropping below seasonable averages into the 40s and 50s. By the 17th, a strong upper-level ridge built back into the area and daytime highs generally returned to the upper 80s and 90s through the end of the month, with some days exceeding the century mark. A strong upper-level storm that was responsible for producing the intense tornadoes in Missouri and Oklahoma on the 22nd and 24th also helped to promote a high wildfire danger and very windy, dusty and hot conditions across our area. As a result, highs reached the low to mid 100s at Childress from the 22nd through the 24th. Another dramatic warm up occurred later that week heading into Memorial Day weekend as sweltering temperatures in the low to upper 100s were experienced areawide. From the 27th through the 30th, temperatures exceeded 100 degrees at Lubbock, making it the 2nd longest streak of 100+ degree days in the month of May. Records were set on the 28th and 29th at Lubbock as the mercury climbed to 104 degrees. Three more records were broken at Childress from the 27th through the 29th as well. The 28th was the warmest day in our area as readings near or above 110 degrees were observed across the Rolling Plains, as Guthrie and Grow reached 109 degrees, Aspermont and Paducah hit 110 degrees, Knox City hit 111 degrees, and Seymour reached a staggering 112 degrees! In addition to the record heat, moisture briefly returned by the early morning hours of the 29th as dryline sloshed west of the city of Lubbock. The low of 75 degrees that day was the highest low temperature ever recorded for the month of May at Lubbock, breaking the old record of 73 degrees. A cold front passed through the area on the evening of the 30th, helping drop highs back into the low to middle 90s to close out the month.

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 May 2011 to data from the complete temperature record which is from 1928-present.



May 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 five at Childress in May! Click on the images for a larger version!
 
May Statistics Lubbock Childress
Average Monthly Temperature  70.8  73.3
Normal May Temperature  69.2  70.3
Deviation From Normal  1.6 Above
 3.0 Above
Monthly Ranking  19th Warmest (since 1914)  12th Warmest (since 1928)
Warmest May  76.7 (1996)  77.7 (1996)
Coolest May  63.2 (1917)  64.0 (1954)
Highest Temperature (May 2011)  104 on the 28th  107 on the 8th
Lowest Temperature (May 2011)  32 on the 3rd    38 on the 3rd
All-Time Highest Temperature

 109 (May 24, 2000)       

 111 (May 23, 2000)

         (May 22, 2000)

All-Time Lowest Temperature  29 (May 7, 1917)  34 (May 3, 1954)
Record Highs (May 2011)

 97 on the 9th

 104 on the 28th

 104 on the 29th

 107 on the 8th

 105 on the 9th

 105 on the 27th

 101 on the 28th

 104 on the 29th

Record Lows (May 2011)  None  None


Precipitation

May 2011 was characterized as very abnormally dry across all of western Texas as historic drought conditions developed over the month that was once again characterized by significantly below normal rainfall. The monthly rainfall totals at Lubbock and Childress were among the top ten driest on record once again.

Both Lubbock received 0.04" and 0.07" of rain on the 1st as scattered showers developed across the area in the wake of a passing upper-level low pressure system. A bulk of the precipitation at Lubbock in May occurred from a thunderstorm complex that moved through the region during the early morning hours of the 11th. 0.22" of rain was observed at Lubbock with some locations around the city, receiving up to 0.50" of rain that morning. Sadly, this would be the last measureable precipitation observed at Lubbock for the rest of the month. At Childress, around 0.11" of rain fell from the same thunderstorm complex later on the morning of the 11th. Then, late in the month a cold front dropped into the area during the evening hours of the 30th and triggered off some scattered thunderstorms across the southeastern Panhandle and Rolling Plains. The front pushed back north into the South Plains on the 31st and triggered off additional widely scattered thunderstorms across the entire area. In total, Childress received 0.29" of rain on the 30th and 0.40" on the 31st from thunderstorms that impacted the observing site. Sadly, the one thunderstorm that approached Lubbock on the 31st remained north of the city and missed the observing site at the airport. Thus, only a trace of rain was registered for Lubbock on the 31st.

As a result of the extremely dry conditions, nearly the entire region was upgraded to D-4 (Exceptional) Drought status, the highest ranking possible. This ranking points to how critically dry the area really is as a drought of this stature is incredibly rare with a probability of occurring once every 50-100 years. As a result of this very significant drought, fuels such as grasses, mesquite, and juniper continue to be extremely stressed and are at record levels of dryness. 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. Thus given the state of these fuels, an elevated fire danger continues to exist across the entire region even on non-windy days. Sadly, very little improvement is expected as we begin the month of June as these drought conditions are expected to persist (and could even worsen further) if the region does not begin to experience any meaningful rainfall.

May Statistics Lubbock Childress
Total Precipitation  0.26"  0.90"
Normal Precipitation  2.31"  3.07"
Departure From Normal  2.05" Below  2.56" Below
Monthly Ranking  5th Driest (since 1911)  9th Driest (since 1924)
Wettest May  12.69" (1941)  10.25" (1935)
Driest May  0.00" (1927)  0.01" (2004)
Wettest Day (2011)  0.22" on the 11th
 0.40" on the 31st
All-Time Wettest May Day  4.32" (May 23, 1941)  3.25" (May 15, 1980)

 

May Statistics Lubbock Childress
Total Snowfall  0.0"  0.0"
Normal Snowfall  0.0"  0.0"
Departure From Normal  N/A  N/A
Monthly Ranking  Tied For Least Snowiest  Tied For Least Snowiest
Snowiest May  0.7" (1991)  None
Snowiest Day (2011)  None  None
All-Time Snowiest Day  0.7" (May 7, 1991)  None

 

 Wind

May Statistics Lubbock Childress
Average Wind Speed (mph)  15.0  14.3
Normal Wind Speed (mph)  14.2  13.1
Highed Sustained Wind Speed (mph)  43 on the 24th
 45 on the 24th
Highest Wind Gust (mph)  53 on the 24th
 53 on the 24th

 

The Monthly Outlook for June from the Climate Prediction Center



The monthly temperature outlook for June 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 June 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 June, drought conditions were continuing to worsen across all of Texas. D-4 (Exceptional) drought conditions are now prevailing across nearly all of the South Plains region. 96% of the state was experiencing D1 (Moderate) drought or higher. Also, 92% of the state was in a D-2 (Severe) drought or higher, and about 81% of the state had entered a D-3 (Extreme) drought. In addition, 51% of the state 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 June, drought conditions are expected to persist across all of southern and central Texas. Over the course of the summer, the latest outlook suggests that there may be a slight improvement to the drought. However, this will depend on whether the region can begin to see some meaningful rainfall. Click on the image for a larger version!

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