Corn partly to blame for humidity

Emma Gallagher egallagher@aberdeennews.com
Farm Forum

The Aberdeen area sure seems to attract some unwanted sticky air.

It begs the question — given how landlocked the region is — where does all the humidity come from?

Theories floated locally have included everything from Aberdeen’s geography to the crops that are planted.

Farmer and rancher Dennis Feickert grew up in the region, facing its unpredictable weather for years. Over time, the former South Dakota legislator has learned one thing’s for sure.

“We got humidity, no question about it,” Feickert said.

And while he doesn’t know exactly why, he attributes it to a few things, primarily rainfall. Even though there was relatively little rain in spring and early summer, there was enough to make it humid, he said.

It might be surprising that one of the leading crops in the region is another reason it can get more humid than some would expect in northeastern South Dakota.

“Long term, we have seen an increase in humidity because there’s more corn in the region,” said Laura Edwards, state climatologist.

Historically, she said, South Dakota farmers more often grew wheat, which has different water patterns than corn. With the change in crops, there’s simultaneously been an increase of moisture in the air because corn releases water into the atmosphere through the process of evapotranspiration, Edwards said.

This happens across the region into Nebraska, Edwards said. So the crop theory does hold some water.

Like Feickert, Tim and Josie Hornaman of Aberdeen guessed rain is a factor based on what they know the rest of the state is facing.

“Sioux Falls has been really humid this summer because they’ve been getting so much rain,” Josie Hornaman said.

Edwards confirmed the rain is partially to blame. She said the area has its wet season in the summer, which means it’s not uncommon for it to be humid.

Not only did Edwards agree with the couple on rainfall, but they all made another observation about Aberdeen’s geography — the city was, in essence, built atop a swamp.

Edwards and Feickert also pointed to the summer jet stream, saying it’s a culprit.

According to Edwards, the winter jet stream comes from the northwest and is dry, but in the summer months it carries moisture from the south, thus creating the undeniably humid air.

Jacob Dekoski, 10, hopes to one day be a meteorologist, so he takes the question seriously. Offering his best analysis, he also thinks it depends on the air conditions.

“It’s all the dew points and the different kinds of temperatures in the air,” he said with confidence.

Humid and hot conditions are not just uncomfortable for people. Feickert has noticed they disturb his livestock.

“It’s hard on the cattle, oh my goodness, they stand there with their tongues hanging out,” he said.