Drought lingers in the southwest as summer heat returns

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – Drought concerns eased last month with widespread rainfall and near average temperatures in South Dakota. At this point, the climate outlook for July remains uncertain.

“Copious amounts of rain fell in the northeastern counties in June,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist. “Some locations reported 3 to 5 inches above average rainfall for the month. That is nearly double average for those areas between Marshall and Deuel counties.”

Edwards added that the southwestern corner of South Dakota remains in moderate to severe drought going in to the month of July.

“Unfortunately, the southern Black Hills and areas between Fall River and Todd counties continued to be much drier than average in June,” said Edwards.

Climatologically, the summer is traditionally a dry season for those counties. This, Edwards explains means that further drought recovery will be unlikely in the coming months.

“As temperatures increase, so does water demand by plants, animals and people,” she said.

Edwards said according to the latest monthly and seasonal drought outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center a drought is expected to persist in this area for July and through September.

June’s temperatures have helped crop producers across the state, said Dennis Todey, SDSU State Climatologist.

“Temperatures in June were slightly below average for the month, but nothing like what the state experienced earlier this year,” Todey said. “Statewide, June temperature was just a degree or two below the long-term average. This created a nice environment for crop growth and rangeland recovery over the last few weeks.”

By the end of June, corn fields appeared to be in good shape, and soybean fields were improving.

Field recovery

A path of severe storms passed through eastern South Dakota on June 21. Most reports indicate that damaged fields were able to be replanted after hail, high winds and tornadoes affected the US-212 corridor that afternoon.

Looking ahead to the month of July, Todey said computer climate models are scattered in their predictions for the northern Plains.

“There are no clear signs of wetter or drier than average conditions for the month,” he said. “Extended periods of excessive heat don’t seem to be forthcoming.”

In the early part of the month, models predict that South Dakota will be in the path of cooler and drier air from Canada, as high pressure sits in the western U.S.

“This isn’t to say we are entirely cut off from moisture,” Todey said. “We will likely get small amounts of rainfall here and there from more sporadic thunderstorms.”

Edwards and Todey agree that the early part of July will be pleasant. The sunny skies and moderately warm temperatures will be a boon to gardens and row crops in the region, and will also prevent severe heat issues for livestock.

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