After spending the summer months reporting on the devastating drought, State Climatologist Dennis Todey was ready to provide some good news to South Dakotans this fall.
Unfortunately, the change in seasons, while bringing cooler temperatures, hasn’t brought the much needed moisture South Dakota soils need.
“As we transitioned from summer to fall, I fully expected there to be at least a couple systems coming through that would drop one to two inches of widespread rainfall. At this point all the systems have missed most of South Dakota except for one system which hit the northeastern portion of the state in late October,” Todey said.
The storm systems Todey refers to are large low-pressure areas which occur with the change in seasons. Differing from summer’s higher intensity, thunderstorms, which tend not to produce widespread rainfall, fall’s rainstorms are often lighter intensity, but provide moisture to a larger coverage area.
Typically these fall rainstorms average about five inches of moisture in western South Dakota to about seven inches of moisture to the eastern portion of the state between September and November. This added moisture before the soil freezes is integral to restoring soil moisture levels heading into spring.
“Any moisture events that happen once the ground freezes is of limited benefit for soil moisture,” Todey said.
Unless there are some dramatic weather changes, Todey says drought issues will continue into 2013.
“We are at higher risk for drought issues in 2013 because of the lack of soil moisture. If we get average rainfall in the spring, it will still be difficult to rebuild the soil moisture profile in many places throughout South Dakota,” he said. “We will be very dependent upon rainfall throughout the growing season next summer.”
Laura Edwards agrees with him. The SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist says the drought appears to be getting worse rather than better, based on the October 18 Climate Prediction Center’s long-range outlook.
“We have been hoping for improving our situation this fall, but the state is getting drier instead of wetter,” Edwards said. “The long-range drought outlook depicts persisting drought into the winter season.”
She adds that according to the outlooks, there is a higher probability of above-average temperatures through January.
“This is combined with equal chances of above, below or near normal precipitation for November through January. One exception is the southeastern part of the state, which currently has higher probability of being drier than average through January,” Edwards said.
Before they can offer an optimistic outlook for 2013 growing season, Todey says a few things need to happen. First, there needs to be an extended weather pattern change which would allow moisture to move in from the Gulf of Mexico this fall. Then we need snow cover this winter and some large snowstorms in early spring.
“Right now we don’t have any strong indications one way or another of the amount of spring or summer moisture we’ll receive in 2013,” he said.