This week's cooler temperatures and light rain are a welcome respite to record warmth and an astonishingly early spring.
However, the brief retreat could prove irrelevant if a freeze occurs between now and early May because of how quickly plants are leafing out.
Al Dutcher, Nebraska's state climatologist, is "flabbergasted" by how much the landscape has greened up in just a week.
"I guess you could just say we are all sitting here in amazement that this is happening," he said. "It looks like it's going to continue and, unfortunately, that makes for a scary proposition."
Fruit trees, non-native trees and early crops are at increasing risk as the warmth continues, he said. By this weekend, highs are forecast to return to the 70s in the Omaha area.
"There isn't anything you can do. You just have to wish and pray," he said. "This is just wrong."
Kathleen Cue, horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Douglas and Sarpy County, said the rain should help cool the soil slightly, an improvement over what has been happening.
Soil temperatures in the metro area are running about 50 degrees, more typical of May than mid-March, she said.
Temperatures are still running 10 to 20 degrees above normal in Omaha in the current cool spell.
Daytime highs in the Omaha area have run into the 60s instead of what was a week's worth of highs in the 70s and low 80s. Overnight lows are headed toward the upper 40s instead of the 50s and 60s.
The normal daytime high for this time of year in Omaha area is 54 degrees. The normal overnight low, 30 degrees.
From March 13 through Sunday, Omaha broke or matched eight daily temperature records, sometimes exceeding normal by more than 30 degrees.
Nationwide through Sunday, more than 8,200 daytime and nighttime temperature records were set, said Katy Vincent, spokeswoman for the National Climate Data Center.
Whether an April or May freeze might come is anybody's guess, but the odds favor one.
"Our crystal ball isn't working," said Cue.
"It's not unheard of to go frost-free," Dutcher said. "It's just that 90 percent of the time we'll get a freeze into mid-April."
Ryan Pfannkuch, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Hastings, Neb., said a surge of arctic air isn't necessary for a freeze to occur.
Instead, clear nighttime skies, light winds and dry air, the sort of conditions that accompany high-pressure systems, allow daytime warmth to escape into space. And that allows some nighttime temperatures to drop.
"It's very easy to freeze at night in the early spring," Pfannkuch said. "It's just that we haven't had a lot of that this year."
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