Climate outlook shows cold conclusion to winter 2018

SDSU Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — Colder than average temperatures are likely to carry through March 2018, according to the latest National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Outlook released today, Feb. 15, 2018.

“The last two weeks of February will likely be colder than average, and that pattern is likely to carry into March,” explained Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension state climatologist.

Edwards added that the northwestern states and Northern Plains are all favored to be colder than average to end the winter season. And, the winter drought of northern South Dakota appears likely to linger a while longer. Through the end of February, a relatively dry pattern will remain over the state. As March approaches, the dismal snowpack is a concern.

“After warm temperatures on Valentine’s Day melted much of the low snowpack, brown ground has emerged again,” Edwards said. “Without good snow cover, it is a challenge to refill the dry stock ponds, replenish soil moisture and provide moisture for ecosystems and wildlife habitat.”

Looking ahead to the start of the 2018 spring season, the NOAA Climate Outlook also showed a slightly higher likelihood that western South Dakota could see some wetter conditions in March.

“This would be great news for the drought-stricken area that is still carrying drought conditions from the last one to two years,” Edwards said. “Recent snowfall has prevented the area from getting much worse, but a lot of timely rains will be needed this spring to provide substantial relief in the region.”

For the next three months, March through May, wetter than average conditions are also slightly favored over the northern half of South Dakota.

Edwards explained that this is a critical period for pasture, range and forages. “This area was dry last year at this time, which led into the severe drought during the growing season,” she said.

The spring season is projected to bring warmer temperatures as well, as colder temperatures recede to the northwest states. “At this time, South Dakota has equal chances of warmer, colder and near-average temperatures during the next three months,” Edwards said.

However, for much of the state, as we enter the 2018 growing season, Edwards said it appears that drought may hold its grip for a while into the spring.

“April and May will be more critical than in a typical year, as the soils have very little moisture in reserve due to the dry fall season last year,” Edwards said. “On a positive note, there seems to be low risk of spring flooding due to low snowpack and dry soils in most of the state.”

The southeast corner is in the best condition, given near normal snowfall and some soil moisture from last year’s wet fall season.

March 2018 temperature outlook indicates colder than average temperatures are favored over South Dakota. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center. NOAA Graphic