Colder than average winter likely for northeastern SD

Brookings, SD – The chance of a colder than average winter for much of northeastern South Dakota increased last week, as the Climate Prediction Center released its update to the winter season outlook.

“This is change from the winter outlook that has been forecast up until this point,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist. “There have been higher chances of warmer than average temperatures over the winter, but a shift in climate patterns over the Pacific Ocean have changed things for us.”

Edwards says the rest of the state is projected to have equal chances of above, below or near normal temperatures for December, January and February.

She explains that climatologists look to the Pacific Ocean for clues in what lies ahead for the coming season. Now that El Niño is no longer developing in the tropical region of the Pacific Ocean, climate forecasters are focusing their sights on the northern Pacific Ocean.

“This is akin to looking upstream, to see what might be influencing atmospheric patterns that could move towards the northern Great Plains,” Edwards said.

As far as precipitation goes, Edwards says the winter months have equal chances for wetter, drier or near normal amounts of moisture.

“This does not necessarily mean we will have an average year for snowfall, but that the probability is equal for all three scenarios. Winter is our driest time of year, so we don’t expect a drought buster from December through February,” said Edwards. “South Dakota will need an extended period of above average precipitation to recover from the current drought.”

This is reflected in the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook, also released last week.

“Previously, some improvement was forecast through January for the northern tier counties from Harding to Roberts,” said Dennis Todey, SDSU State Climatologist. “Now, drought is projected to persist across the whole state through at least February.”

Todey and Edwards agree that there is a fair amount of uncertainty this year in the climate model forecasts for the winter months of December, January and February.

“Without El Niño or La Niña impacting us over the winter season, it is more challenging to come up with a strong forecast, and the models are struggling with precipitation in particular,” Todey said. F

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–SDSU Extension