Dry summer still predicted

Dry summer still predicted The old saying, "don't judge a book by its cover" can be applied to this year's growing season, said Al Bender, state climatologist at South Dakota State University.

Although South Dakota has experienced rather wet conditions during April, Bender is sticking with his dry summer forecast.

When forecasting long-lead outlooks, one looks at three-month periods. What happens in one month doesn't greatly affect the entire outlook, he said.

The Central Plains and across the Cornbelt have seen an increase soil moisture levels during the month of April. However, Bender doesn't see this as out of the ordinary.

"South Dakota has had several years in the 1990s with wet springs. 1998 was an exception (with) optimal conditions for South Dakota and for the Cornbelt. But, several years were wet and on the cool side," he said.

This year, the month of April began with above normal soil temperatures and no frost in the ground, reported Bender.

Throughout April, soil temperatures stayed around the middle to upper 40 degree range. Warming below the soil surface has occurred so that once the weather breaks, only a few days will be needed to increase soil temperatures to the 50-degree range, he predicted.

"Soil temperatures aren't going to keep us from getting to the fields. More likely, it's going to be the moisture," he said.

The southeast region of the state, the major corn and soybean growing area, is on the wet side due to heavy rain in October and the rain in the last month, said Bender.

"Parts in the Southeast have recorded 4 to 5 inches of precipitation. The normal level is 2 1/2 inches," he reported.

Bender predicts a transition to occur the end of April or the beginning of May. The spring transition usually occurs when the jet stream moves through the state to the north, he reported.

"This is a more typical spring than we recall," he said. "South Dakota weather patterns have a three-week variability from year-to-year. This spring is becoming an average spring."

"Although a wet spell has hung around, this doesn't characterize what the rest of the growing season will be like," Bender said.

The climatologist still predicts La Nina conditions � below normal moisture and temperatures � lasting through mid-summer.

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