Odd El Nino partially responsible for extra moisture

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Since the beginning of May, precipitation conditions across South Dakota have changed generally for the better, becoming quite wet in certain areas of state, said Dennis Todey, SDSU Extension Climate Specialist and South Dakota Climatologist.

“During the month of May, some places in the west have seen three to four times the precipitation they had seen since January,” Todey said.

The latest climate outlooks, released May 21, 2015 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center keep with that same trend of nearer average, to wetter than average, conditions over much of the state.

Todey explained that due to a dry winter and early spring, South Dakota entered the month of May with growing drought concerns; and rapidly increasing U.S. Drought Monitor coverage and intensity. “The precipitation total across South Dakota were the lowest on record statewide for January through April,” he said “leading to quickly building dryness concerns.”

30-Day Outlook

The newly released NOAA 30- and 90-day climate outlooks continue to indicate wetter than average conditions are more likely for most of the state through the summer.

“The June to August outlook, in particular, has above average precipitation chances likely over most of South Dakota and the Great Plains,” Todey said. “The June outlook has wetter chances just in southern South Dakota.”

Temperature outlooks are listed as equal chances for below or above average for both the next 30- and 90-days. Assuming the wetter conditions do occur, Todey said near-normal to cooler temperatures are more likely to exist for the summer. “Rarely do warm and wet conditions occur together during the warm season in the Plains,” Todey said.

El Nino

El Nino in the Pacific is impacting much of the outlook. “El Nino is developing, which seems very likely to strengthen and persist through the summer,” Todey said.

El Nino’s are more typically a winter phenomenon, Todey explained, strengthening in the fall and weakening in the spring. “This El Nino is acting quite the opposite of usual strengthening through the spring,” he said. “The impact of the likely wetter conditions will be to continue to reduce the precipitation deficits still existing in some places of eastern South Dakota.”

The newest U.S. Drought Outlook concurs with this idea, showing drought reduction as likely in areas still listed on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. “The increased precipitation totals should generally be good for agricultural production for the year after the dry fall to spring period,” Todey said. “Soils still have some deficits in the east to overcome. Thus, the additional precipitation is still needed.”

He added that excessive wetness has not been too much of a problem yet, but will have to be monitored in some areas of the state. “The change to wetter conditions will also likely increase disease potential for various crops as the growing season progresses,” he said.

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