Winter weather arrives in time climate outlook

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Winter weather is made an appearance just in time for the winter seasonal climate outlook released by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Nov. 17, 2016.

“We have been spoiled by very unusually warm temperatures so far this fall. So, the winter storm and blizzard conditions will be quite a shock to most of us who need to readjust to winter weather driving and warm layered clothing,” said Laura Edwards, acting state climatologist and SDSU Extension climate field specialist.

Since Nov. 1, Edwards explained that South Dakota’s average temperatures have been 10 to 20 degrees above average. There are several locations in southeastern South Dakota that have not yet measured a hard freeze of 28 degrees or colder. This winter storm will finally bring an end to the extended fall season.

The snowfall came just in time for South Dakota’s deer season opener on Nov. 19. “This might be good news for hunters who are trying to track down the elusive buck,” Edwards said. “A blanket of snow could help hunters see where the deer are coming and going around the countryside.”

December climate outlook

The climate outlook for December, and the rest of winter, shows a potential for a pattern shift away from the warm temperatures we have experienced so far in 2016.

“December is the first month of 2016 where the NOAA Climate Prediction Center has not leaned toward warmer than average in their monthly outlook for South Dakota,” Edwards said.

Looking further ahead and through February, Edwards said the NOAA temperature outlook tilts towards cooler than average. “This is consistent with the typical La Niña pattern that we have seen in the northern states,” she explained. “There is not as much confidence this year, however, as the current La Niña is relatively weak and thus less reliable of an indicator.”

Forecasters and climatologists will be watching jet stream and Arctic circulation patterns closely this year. Edwards explained that these patterns typically set up for two to four weeks at a time and can help forecasters predict if cold air is more likely to come down from Canada or if warmer air will prevail from the south.

“Precipitation is as challenging as temperature in the seasonal climate outlooks,” she said. “This winter continues to be the case, as South Dakota straddles between areas that are favored to be wetter and drier.”

As with temperature, forecasters and climatologists will continue to watch jet stream patterns and where storm tracks set up this winter season.

The Northern Rockies and western South Dakota are more likely to be wetter than average. Eastern South Dakota currently has equal chances of being wetter, drier or near average for precipitation through February.