Nebraska has a humid continental type of climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa) in the east and semi-arid (Köppen BSk) in the west. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are cold and icy. Iowa in the east, Missouri in the southeast, Kansas in the south, Colorado in the southwest, Wyoming in the west and northwest, and South Dakota in the north, border the state. The Rocky Mountains influence the climate profoundly as the windward side of the mountains sucks the moisture from the air masses that pass over them.
Nebraska, the Cornhusker State, is part of the Midwestern United States and lies in the Great Plains region. The average elevation is 790 meters above sea level, and Panorama Point lies at the highest altitude of 1654 meters. The Platte, the Niobrara, and the Republican are the major rivers that flow through the state. Western Nebraska is part of the Great Plains that includes mixed-grass steppe, wetlands, ridges, and canyons. Eastern Nebraska consists of gently rolling prairie of the Dissected Till Plains and composed of sandy loam soils. Numerous small basins, lakes, and valleys are part of the sandhills section of the west.
Summers are hot and humid in Nebraska with daytime highs in the average 85°F (29.4°C) to 90°F (32.2°C) range at the peak of July. Temperatures cross 100°F (37.8°C) statewide and record as high as 115°F (46.1°C) at the height of summer. The northeast is coldest in the winter, while the panhandle has the lowest average temperatures during the rest of the year. Winters are harsh with average low temperatures in the 10°F (-12.2°C) to 20°F (-6.7°C) range in January. Temperatures routinely drop below 0°F (-17.8°C) in the majority of the state during the cold season. Spring has moderate temperatures but is a season of thunderstorms and tornadoes. Autumn has the best weather with moderate rain and heat but sees occasional storms in September.
The average rainfall in Nebraska is a moderate 25" (635mm) and varies from 32" (812.8mm) in the east to 14" (355.6mm) in the west and panhandle. May to September is the wettest period, which is at its peak in June and July. The eastern portion of the state is significantly more humid than the western part. Snowfall ranges from 21" (533.4mm) in the south to 45" (1143mm) in the northwest and lasts from as early as October to late as April. Nebraska receives ample sunshine with 210 to 230 sunny days in the year. The average temperatures are uniform statewide, but temperatures and precipitation vary widely by season. Chinook winds have a limited influence that warms the western portion of the state during winter. Weather changes are frequent and sharp due to the interaction of various types of air masses.
Minden recorded Nebraska's highest temperature of 118°F (47.8°C) on July 24, 1936, while Camp Clarke recorded the lowest temperature of -47°F (-43.9°C) on February 12, 1899.
The best time to visit Nebraska
The best time to visit Nebraska is from September to October in the fall when the temperatures are moderate. The conditions are pleasant with low precipitation, bright sunshine, and fewer instances of stormy weather. The fall season is lovely with beautiful colors, breezy evenings and beautiful mornings. April and May have mild temperatures in the spring and are worth a visit. However, spring is prone to thunderstorms and tornadoes, as is summer. Summer is the hottest and wettest part of the year in Nebraska.
The worst time to visit Nebraska
The worst time to visit Nebraska is from December to February in the winter when the state is firmly in the grip of cold weather. Cold fronts are standard, and snowfall can begin as early as October. Night temperatures drop dramatically at the peak of winter and even dip below 0°F (-17.8°C). Day high temperatures register below freezing in many places during the peak cold of January. Strong gales blow during the cold season with no barriers in the form of mountains. The days are short, and the weak sunlight rarely lasts above a few hours. Periods of heavy snowfall compound the cold conditions and an occasional blizzard may stall everyday life.
Nebraska lies in the Tornado Alley of the United States that sees thunderstorms and tornadoes mainly in the spring and summer. Low-pressure systems with warm moist air are conducive for the storms. Thunderstorms average 45 to 50 days in the year, and a large percentage of rainfall occurs during the storms. An average of 45 twisters hit the boundaries of the state annually. Riverbanks flood due to excessive rainfall. Heavy rain during thunderstorms results in flash floods in many places. Droughts occasionally occur in the western part of the state, which receives less rainfall.
Weather in January
January is by far the coldest and snowiest month of the year in Nebraska with the mercury column sliding rapidly towards the bottom. Wind chills routinely make the weather feel colder than actual temperatures. The average low temperatures are in the frigid 10°F (-12.2°C) to 15°F (-9.4°C) range, while the average high temperatures are in the cold 33°F (0.6°C) to 41°F (5°C) zone. Temperatures remain below 0°F (-17.8°C) for days together in many parts of the state. Lincoln, the capital in the east, sees average temperatures in the 14°F (-10°C) to 35°F (1.7°C) range. January is the driest period in terms of rainfall, but snowfall averages 6" (152.4mm) to 8" (203.2mm) in the state. Thermals and fleece serve well for outdoor activities such as sledding and ice skating, while warm coats, gloves, and a hat suffice for regular working days. White, powdery snow covers the landscape with a weak sun in the background during the short winter days. Keep an eye on the weather for snowstorms in January in Nebraska.
Weather in February
February is cold in Nebraska with bone-chilling cold nights and ample snowfall in the state. The average temperatures are in the cold 13°F (-10.6°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) zone across the state. Chadron in the west averages between a frigid 13°F (-10.6°C) to 42°F (5.6°C), while Omaha in the far east ranges between a cold 18°F (-7.8°C) to 38°F (3.3°C). Now and then, Chinook winds from the Rocky Mountains raise the temperatures during the winter. Ice fishing has plenty of rewards due to fewer crowds and abundant fish. Nebraska is perfect for cross-country skiing with its rolling hills and flat plains. The off-season is perfect for cozying up in the cabins of the state parks while the snow falls outside. The powdery snow makes snowshoeing enjoyable and easy for beginners. Snowstorms frequently occur in February, so keep a stack of warm clothing, food, and fuel. The vast prairie provides open skies and fantastic stargazing opportunities in February in Nebraska. Dress in layers and warm coats.
Weather in March
March is a combination of warm days and cold nights cold in Nebraska as early spring sets its feet in the state. Eastern Nebraska is colder than the western part, but nights are below freezing statewide. Lincoln in the east averages between 28°F (-2.2°C) to 52°F (11.1°C), while Kimball in the west registers in the 23°F (-5°C) to 49°F (9.4°C) range. Precipitation is light and rarely crosses 1" (25.4mm) to 2" (50.8mm) in early spring. Snowfall is ample with Chadron in the northwest panhandle recording 9.6" (243.8mm) of snowfall in March. Hiking trails open in early spring, often winding up to vantage points that provide a bird's eye view of the surrounding landscape for miles. Driving through the Sandhills region with beautiful grasslands, lakes, and dunes is one of the great attractions of spring. The warm sunshine lasts for at least 7 hours, while fresh air and blooming flowers lift the spirits as the winter cold slowly fades away. Wear warm coats during the freezing nights and a light jacket or sweater during the mild days in March in Nebraska.
Weather in April
April brings welcome warmth to Nebraska as the spring season advances rapidly. The days are occasionally wet as the precipitation sees a marked increase to register 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) in the majority of the state. The thawing of snow provides suitable grounds for the growing season by the last week of April. The southeast is generally free of snow by mid-spring, while the northwest may see it linger for a few days more. The average high temperatures are between a warm 58°F (14.4°C) to 65°F (18.3°C), while the average night temperatures are in the cold 30°F (-1.1°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) zone. Grand Island in the south-central region has warm temperatures between 38°F (3.3°C) to 63°F (17.2°C), while Scottsbluff is cold in the 32°F (0°C) to 61°F (16.1°C) range. The beautiful sunshine lasts for a daily 8 hours, and the atmosphere is filled with joy as the ground adorns a green texture. The tourist season sees a bump as zoos, parks, trails, and campgrounds welcome the enthusiastic visitors. Nebraska sees a rise in thunderstorms in April.
Weather in May
May is warm and wet in Nebraska with comfortable temperatures. The skies are partly cloudy as rain and shine alternate frequently. Day temperatures average in the pleasant 68°F (20°C) to 73°F (22.8°C) range, while the nights register between 48°F (8.9°C) to 53°F (11.7°C). The chirping of birds, the vast prairie landscape, fresh aroma of flowers, lakes, and rivers filled with freshwater are the highlights of the spring season. Biking and hiking on the numerous trails, including the historic trails of the Lewis and Clarke expedition are popular activities in spring. The precipitation increases significantly and is in the 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm) in the east, while the west receives less than 3" (76.2mm) of rain. A rain jacket or umbrella is a must as the showers are frequently heavy. Thunderstorms and tornadoes play regular hosts during late spring. Expect the heat and humidity to grow steadily with the end of the season. May is the perfect time to beat the summer crowds in Nebraska who show up despite the heavy rain.
Weather in June
June is hot and sunny, but also humid and wet in the summer of Nebraska. The brilliant 10 to 11 hours of daily sunshine also see periods of dark cloudy skies that bring heavy showers. Thunderstorms are frequent and often bring torrential rain. Landspouts occur occasionally and arouse the interest of tourists who are unfamiliar with the phenomena. June is the rainiest month of the year with 5" (127mm) to 7" (177.8mm) of rainfall in many places. The average high temperatures soar in the 78°F (25.6°C) to 83°F (28.3°C), while the average low temperatures are in the temperate zone of 58°F (14.4°C) to 63°F (17.2°C). Tubing from Cody Park down the North Platte River is a popular activity and takes several hours in the scenic waters. Grab a sunscreen or the shelter of shade during the hot mid-day period. Keep an eye on the weather forecast as sudden storms catch visitors by surprise. Light summer clothing is suitable during June days in Nebraska, but an umbrella helps counter the rain.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in Nebraska with the average high temperatures in the state between 86°F (30°C) to 91°F (32.8°C). Temperatures routinely shoot past 105°F (40.6°C) and stay there for many days. Southerly winds bring moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and result in heavy precipitation. July days are longest and sunniest with 11 to 12 hours of daily sunshine. Humidity is high up to 90% in the mornings in the east, while the west is mostly dry and hot. Swimming holes, ponds, lakes, and rivers see many visitors competing for the best spots. Parks and zoos, such as the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, are hotspots in the summer for families with kids. Lewis and Clarke Lake is a popular destination during the hot weather for swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, and bird-watching. Expect the heat and humidity to last the entire month and beyond. July occasionally sees dark clouds in the sky in Nebraska.
Weather in August
August is a hot summer month in Nebraska with soaring temperatures amid the blazing sun. The average high temperatures in the hot and humid 84°F (28.9°C) to 89°F (31.7°C) range, while the average low temperatures are between a temperate 57°F (13.9°C) to 62°F (16.7°C). Places like Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings, and North Platte in the south-central region see ample sunshine of 10 hours with temperatures that frequently cross 100°F (37.8°C). Rainfall is in the range of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) statewide, as occasional thunderstorms produce flash floods. Few drive-in theaters remain where people can catch summer blockbusters under the open skies. Campgrounds in the state parks rarely remain vacant in the summer when the days are sunny and the nights provide amazing stargazing opportunities on the open prairie. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, and shorts provide comfort in humid conditions. Do not forget to carry an insect repellent during night stays in open tents. Expect Nebraska temperatures to gradually step down by the end of the summer in August.
Weather in September
September welcomes the beautiful fall season to Nebraska with a dazzling display of colors over the landscape. Temperatures drop steadily with each passing day as average highs register between the 75°F (23.9°C) to 80°F (26.7°C). The panhandle region cools faster and often has chilly nights in early fall. The precipitation reduces to record 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) as the daily sunshine lasts for 8 hours in the majority of the state. Fresh air, fresh fruit in the ripe apple orchards and abundant pumpkin patches signify the time of festivities. The pleasant weather drives large crowds to festivals like the AppleJack in Nebraska City. The harvest season is in full swing with plenty of produce for locals, tourists, and more. Chances of spotting wildlife are high in the autumn with the availability of surplus food on the land. The leaves start to change color by mid-September in the majority of the state. Fall is a fantastic time to enjoy the cool weather amid changing leaves, and September is one of the best times to visit Nebraska.
Weather in October
October is a beautiful month in the autumn of Nebraska with bright sunshine, moderate temperatures, and light rain. Peak fall foliage brings brilliant hues of crimson, yellow, orange, magenta and purple. The average high temperatures are in the range of 63°F (17.2°C) to 68°F (20°C), while average low temperatures register between 31°F (-0.6°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) across the state. There are many sunny days to traverse the natural trails and enjoy the beauty of the serene landscape. Evenings are often breezy and perfect for scenic drives with the wind in the face. The skies are partly cloudy with precipitation in the 1" (25.4mm) to 3" (76.2mm) range across the state that increases from west to east. The decreased humidity and moderately intense sunlight that lasts for 6 to 7 hours create a pleasant atmosphere which keeps people outdoors. Tourist numbers rise in the fall season due to the festivities at the end of the harvest season. Layered clothing ensures comfortable evenings in October in Nebraska.
Weather in November
November has mild to cold weather in Nebraska as the fall season wanes gradually. Birds migrate to warm climates as the sunny days slowly wither away. Day temperatures are mild in the average range of 47°F (8.3°C) to 50°F (10°C), while nights are freezing between 19°F (-7.2°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C). Valentine in the north-central region averages 21°F (-6.1°C) to 48°F (8.9°C), while McCook in the south-central is between 24°F (-4.4°C) to 52°F (11.1°C). Rainfall is light and rarely crosses 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm) in any part of the state. November records the first significant snowfall of the season. Snowfall is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) and increases from west to east. A rental cabin works best to enjoy the colorful fall scenery and is particularly useful during the hunting season. The peak foliage lasts till mid-November in the southeast region. Keep in mind that the short days receive 5 to 6 hours of sunlight. Budget travelers find November an excellent time to visit Nebraska with cheap accommodations and tenable weather.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the cold winter season in Nebraska with gloomy skies and short days. The sunlight is weak as cold air masses loom in the atmosphere. Temperatures often register below 0°F (-17.8°C) during the nights and even during the day it is cold enough to dress in layers. Enders Reservoir in the south averages between 12°F (-11.1°C) to 40°F (4.4°C), while Falls City in the east registers in the 20°F (-6.7°C) to 38°F (3.3°C) zone. The northwest region is the coldest and sees ample snowfall of 6" (152.4mm) to 8" (203.2mm) in December. Moderate to heavy snowfall across the state makes a case for warm coats while stepping outside in the cold weather. While most people huddle indoors, some prefer to enjoy the large ice skating rinks or sledding on the bountiful snow. Iced lake surfaces are particularly popular for enjoying a spin during the winter. Christmas is often white with the landscape covered in a blanket of snow in December in Nebraska. [Resources]
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