Climate extremes important to planning for ag industry

Farm Forum

Extreme temperature drops were recorded Jan. 16 in the northeast portion of the state by the South Dakota Office of Climate and Weather. The most notable temperature change was that of the Leola station which recorded a 12 degree drop in ten minutes and an 18 degree drop in an hour. The temperature fell from 38 degrees at 11:35 a.m. to 26 degrees at 11:45 a.m., and finally to 20 degrees by 12:35 p.m.

“Although this is notable, it is not a record,” said Nathan Edwards, SDSU Research Assistant and Network Engineer. “The National Weather Service states that the United States record for a two hour temperature change is held by Rapid City with a 62 degree drop on Jan.

13, 1911.”

Spearfish set a U.S. record with a 49 degree rise in two minutes on Jan. 22, 1943, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Edwards is located in Aberdeen and explained more about the work he does.

“While the temperature drops are interesting, there are broader implications for agricultural weather. The office, with 34 weather stations across the state, captures data on a finer scale on physical and time than what’s typically recorded by the U.S. weather service.”

The Climate and Weather office record data at five minute increments, and report every 30 minutes to the state-wide system.

The differences in the availably of the information has important impacts on the agriculture industry or activities associated with it.

“One example would be ag spraying,” Edwards said. “When looking at the reports for the National Weather Service, it shows data from the

19 airport weather stations that serve the state. If I were going to do spraying in Faulkton, looking at NWS conditions for Faulkton, it would show the numbers from the nearest reporting station which is at Aberdeen.”

He went on to say that, in one instance, at 1 p.m. current conditions recorded 21 degrees in Faulkton through their system. The NWS showed 39 degrees for Faulkton until the cold front hit Aberdeen 3

1/2 hours later. This system fills in the holes between the airport stations.

All of the data is sent to computer servers at SDSU, via cellular modem or internet connection. Working in close contact with the NWS, ag producers can make good use of the data in having more localized forecasts.

“The stations report in real time, updating as often as every five minutes, enabling South Dakotans to make well-informed decisions when their activities are impacted by the state’s rapidly changing weather,” said Edwards.

This can be particularly helpful for producers planning on spraying fields if there is a temperature change or a wind change. If a producer is planning on doing some ag spraying, and starts with a responsible manner under weather conditions, it may be questioned after the fact when damage to crops occurs because of high winds that were not predicted. This could have been a localized wind event as well as temperature change.

The office has archives of this data which are constantly logged. This may apply to drift scenarios and also allow a producer to head off problems with unwanted drift.

Their website at http://www.climate.sdstate.edushows current conditions on a localized scale.

“We’re looking to grow the network, because these things happen on a scale that is roughly typically in areas the size of a county,” said Edwards. “We’d like to see each county equipped with one of these stations. The stations have been funded by agribusiness or energy companies, or by private individuals. They may do this for their own financial reasons for drift or research and development for varieties of corn. Some do it as a public service for customers.”

The real time active stations are doubled up in some counties with the 34 stations in 22 counties. There are some big holes, such as in Spink, Stanley, Clark and Hamlin counties. For those interested in supporting a station, it costs $3,000 a year to operate with costs about $12,000 to put one station in place. Donors get recognition for installing the equipment. The maintenance costs takes care of upkeep, communication and calibrations. Contact Edwards for more information at 605-626-2870.

In addition to typically weather data, most of sites record soil temperatures, solar radiation, calculate crop water usage which is unique to our station,” Edwards said. “It’s of great use to ag community to assist in timing of field work, figuring enviro transpiration and scheduling irrigation.”

Real-time and archived data can be found at the office’s website

To read more articles about South Dakota’s climate, visit

Farm Forum Photo by John Davis

A small flock of sparrows fluff up to ward off the cold air as they roost in a bare bush Tuesday afternoon. Cold temperatures will continue to chill all creatures big and small.