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July-August 2017

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The Weather and Climate of Nebraska: The Heartland of Extremes

Nebraska's topography can almost exclusively be described as a gently rolling Plain. Yet, elevations range from 840 feet above sea level (eastern Nebraska) to 5,424 feet above sea level (western Nebraska). Nebraska is predominantly a rural state with only two main population centers: Omaha (population 435,000) on the eastern edge of the state and the state capital, Lincoln (population 270,000), located just 50 miles to the southwest of Omaha. A series of much smaller towns is located along I-80, the main thoroughfare in Nebraska, which extends 450 miles from the Iowa border to the Wyoming border. Around half of the state's population lives in the Omaha-Lincoln area. Although urban influences on climate are minimal in Nebraska, observed temperatures in Lincoln and Omaha are frequently several degrees warmer than the surrounding rural areas. When there is a snow cover across the state, Lincoln and Omaha often show up on satellite images as slighter grayer in color due to the reduced amount of snow cover resulting from snow removal from the streets and parking lots and from urbanized snowmelt.

 

KENNETH DEWEY is a Professor of Applied Climate Science in the School of Natural Resources and the Department of Geography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

H. MICHAEL MOGIL is a certified consulting meteorologist and science writer based in Naples, Florida.

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