Rain and snow erase drought in South Dakota

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – The record blizzard and subsequent rain events over the last three weeks have effectively removed all drought from South Dakota’s landscape, said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist, referencing the Oct. 18 U.S. Drought Monitor map.

“The map depicts only lingering abnormally dry conditions in some areas, a carryover from the dry summer season,” Edwards said. “This week there was a one-category drought improvement across the state map. The rains we have seen over the last two weeks have effectively removed all drought concerns from the landscape.”

Since the beginning of the month, rainfall totals have exceeded 2 inches in nearly every corner of the state. The lowest totals have been reported in the south central and southeast portions of the state which have received between 1.5- to 3-inches over the last 17 days. Lawrence County and some isolated locations in the Black Hills and Meade County have measured more than 10-inches of liquid over that same period.

Edwards explained that soil moisture measurements have responded and some areas are saturated 40 inches deep or more. She referenced the state climate office’s mesonet site at Antelope Range in the northwest as one of those locations; and the Cottonwood Field Station in central South Dakota is saturated at least to 20 inches deep.

“This is an extraordinary soil response to the snow and rain that has fallen since October 1,” Edwards said.

Sadly, the snow and rain have come at a high cost, causing extensive livestock losses in the western counties, said Dennis Todey, SDSU State Climatologist. He added that a lesser impact has been some temporary delay in corn and soybean harvesting in the eastern counties. In the row crop areas, the northeast has generally been wetter than the southeast slowing progress more in that area. On the positive side, winter wheat fields are benefitting from the recent rains, a much different story from October one year ago.

“The outlook for November and through the next few months is challenging,” Todey said. “The computer models continue to struggle with both temperature and precipitation for the northern Plains states.”

He said there is some indication of wetter than average conditions northwest of us, in Montana and Wyoming during the first part of the winter. Other than that, Todey said the official national outlook indicates that South Dakota has equal chances of below, above or near average temperature and precipitation through November and the next three months.

“The soil moisture recovery over the last two to three weeks has really helped our situation going into the winter season,” Todey said. “It is likely that most of that moisture will remain in the soils, virtually eliminating any potential drought development through the winter. This is good news for next year’s spring cropping and grazing season.”

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