Seasonal Outlook Shows Potential Drought Improvement for Western South Dakota
As South Dakota faces yet another winter storm, the climate outlooks for early spring have been released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which allows us to look to the end of the 2017 winter season.
“Precipitation outlooks for the next three months show higher likelihood of wetter than average conditions through April for the western and northern regions of the state,” said Laura Edwards, Acting State Climatologist & SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.
Edwards added that the current precipitation outlook is consistent with what we have seen this winter season. “The southeast corner of the state is projected to have equal chances of wetter, drier or near average precipitation through April,” she said.
Edwards said this projection of wetter than average conditions could be good news to those who suffered through the drought of 2016.
“Although there have been some improvements in the severity of drought in western South Dakota, there are still some lingering concerns of having sufficient water to meet the demand, especially for agricultural production in 2017,” she said.
Snow reports from the Black Hills have been close to average, if not slightly above average, so far this season.
With at least another month of winter left to go, Edwards said there is still time for more precipitation to fall and improve drought conditions before the growing season begins.
With the southeast now showing equal chances of wetter, drier or near average precipitation through April 2017, Edwards said there is no concern over whether or not there will be enough moisture to begin the growing season.
“With the wet fall and early winter, there is enough moisture in the soils to begin in the spring, with just a little more than average for this time of year,” she said.
For the southeast region, Edwards said drought is not much of a concern for the early spring season.
Temperatures predicted to be colder than average
The temperature outlook for February through April indicate that colder than average temperatures are more likely to prevail in the northern and northwestern counties of South Dakota.
“This is consistent with La Nia as it will wane in the late winter,” Edwards said.
Historically, Edwards explained, climate patterns like this have been cooler than average in the month of February.
“Colder than average temperature is currently the most challenging aspect of the outlook for the spring, as this can hold back planting and spring fieldwork in the northern counties,” she said. “Looking ahead at the climate outlook for late winter and early spring, the forecasters for this outlook are less confident than in recent months.”
Edwards explained that spring can often bring large swings in both temperature and precipitation.
“Climate patterns like La Niña are less reliable in the spring season, so forecasters tend to focus on two to three weeks at a time,” she said.
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A pasture or lot with plenty of grass or bedding and windbreak is important when calving in the cold.