April Weather Summary
A resurgent La Niña helped to fuel an active storm track, resulting in cool, wet conditions across much of the Nation's northern tier. April temperatures generally averaged at least 4°F below normal from eastern Washington into the upper Great Lakes region and were more than 8°F below normal in parts of North Dakota. The heaviest precipitation, relative to normal, fell across the northern Plains, where multiple rounds of heavy rain and wind-driven snow eased or eradicated drought. In fact, moderate to major flooding developed late in the month in the Red River Valley, north of Fargo, North Dakota.
Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms frequently accompanied several strong cold fronts crossing the Plains, Midwest, and South, with most of the month's more than 200 tornadoes-based on preliminary reports-occurring on April 4-6, 11-13, 22-23, and 29-30. Dozens of tornadoes were spotted on April 5 from Mississippi to South Carolina, followed by an impressive, early-season Midwestern tornado outbreak on April 12 from eastern Nebraska to southeastern Minnesota. The South endured another significant tornado outbreak on April 12-13, while severe weather across the Plains peaked on April 22 and 29.
Despite late-month thunderstorms across the Nation's mid-section, drought continued to intensity across the southern half of the High Plains, amid sharp temperature fluctuations, periodic high winds, and occasional blowing dust. Nearly half (43 percent of the Nation's winter wheat was rated in very poor to poor condition on May 1, the greatest amount in those two categories at this time of year since April-May 1996. In addition, more than half (56 percent) of the U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated in very poor to poor condition on May 1, very close to the record-high value of the last quarter-century-59 percent very poor to poor for several weeks in late-summer 2012.
In fact, much of the Nation's southwestern quadrant, stretching from California to the High Plains, remained mired in significant drought, with potentially serious implications for water supplies, rangeland and pastures, and rain-fed crops. By May 3, more than half of the Lower 48 States had been in drought since late-November 2021, a span of 24 weeks. Additionally, more than 40 percent of the country experienced drought each week from September 29, 2020, to May 3, 2022, an 84-week streak that has broken the United States Drought Monitor-era record (previously, 68 weeks from June 19, 2012 - October 1, 2013).
Despite the worsening Southwestern situation, which included several large, destructive, wildfires, national drought coverage decreased 4 percentage points, from 58 to 54 percent, during the 5-week period ending May 3. Most of the reduction in drought coverage occurred in the North and parts of the South, including the southeastern Plains and the Mississippi Delta. Farther west, early-season wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico burned hundreds of thousands of acres of vegetation and destroyed hundreds of homes. In northeastern New Mexico, near Las Vegas, the Calf Canyon Fire-sparked on April 19-joined with an escaped prescribed burn (the Hermits Peak Fire)-to scorch more than 165,000 acres and destroy more than 250 structures.
Elsewhere, cool, damp Midwestern conditions limited April fieldwork, leading to a sluggish planting pace for corn and soybeans. By May 1, topsoil moisture ranged from 24 to 40 percent surplus in all Midwestern States except Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. On the same date, only 14 percent of the Nation's intended corn acreage had been planted, well behind the 5-year average pace of 33 percent. This represented the slowest planting pace since 2013, when only 8 percent of the corn had been planted by May 1.