South Dakota State University Extension State Climatologist Dennis Todey said that's because an El Nino event, a warming of the ocean surface off the western coast of South America, is influencing weather patterns worldwide. The El Nino phenomenon frequently results in mild winter weather for South Dakota.
"What we are looking at this winter is a very strong probability of warmer-than-average temperatures throughout the winter," Todey said. "The new long-range outlooks came out from the Climate Prediction Center, and they are continuing to look at this El Nino, expecting to see the El Nino continue to hold or even strengthen. If the El Nino continues to hold or strengthen, our likelihood of a warmer winter will still stay quite high."
Climatologists discuss temperature probabilities in terms of "near average," "above average," and "below average," Todey said.
The Climate Prediction Center is saying South Dakota has a 60 percent chance to end up in the "above average" category, and only a very small chance to end up in the "below average" category.
Todey says the El Nino typically continues to strengthen going into the new calendar year.
From a precipitation standpoint, there are no strong indications from the Climate Prediction Center about what winter will bring for South Dakota, Todey said. But he noted there are hints in the southeast part of the state that an El Nino winter could bring a little additional precipitation.