Climatologist expects ‘normal’ SD winter

Climatologist expects 'normal' SD winter South Dakotans probably can expect a more 'normal' winter this year, meaning colder temperatures than recent winters, said Al Bender, Extension climatologist at South Dakota State University.

"Even normal might be quite a winter for us, because we haven't had much the last three years," said Bender.

"A normal spring and summer are signaling a normal winter," Bender continued. "While there really is no such thing as a normal year, this year so far, is probably the closest we have come since 1991."

The southeastern part of South Dakota usually gets the most rain while the northwestern part receives the least. This situation has been reversed for nearly the last decade, especially the last three years, said Bender. However, this year, the largest amounts of precipitation have been in the eastern part of the state, with significantly less in western areas. This may be a signal of a return toward normal climatic patterns.

The shift towards more normal climatic patterns is due in part to the waning of La Nina, Bender said. While it may be some time before La Nina ends, the climate is heading into a neutral period between El Nino and La Nina, he stated.

"In a neutral phase and going into El Nino, South Dakota historically sees its most significant winter weather," said Bender.

He said climatologists will be watching closely over the next couple of months for a stronger signal of El Nino approaching. They want a clue eight to 12 months in advance, because winter is so significant to South Dakota.

However, the long-lead forecast tools are less accurate during the neutral stage.

"It is much more difficult to provide effective guidance for winter, which is a significant time for South Dakota," said Bender.

The September-through-November long-lead outlook foresees temperatures normal to slightly above normal with normal-to-above-normal precipitation for the Northern Plains.

Bender said the outlook is favorable that fall precipitation will help recharge soil moisture. Three to four inches of rain from mid-September to the end of October is needed to restore the soil profile, he said.

"We need to have that water in the bank so we are ready in the spring."

Bender said, with normal frost dates and crops at satisfactory maturity levels, frost should not be a danger to most crops. The South Dakota Ag Statistics Service reported on Aug. 21 that 74 percent of corn is in the dough stage and 92 percent of soybeans are setting pods.

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