After rain, sleet and lightning this week, local residents can expect calm

Last winter, the Vermillion area received 40 inches of snow. The year before that brought 55.6 inches.

This year, only 16 inches has fallen – and that total won't be much higher even after the winter weather pattern that hit many parts of the state this week fully dissipates.

Nor will that pattern be a sign of any major changes in climate or precipitation in the future, said Kyle Weisser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

"Right now, it's more of a singular thing. It's not a real huge pattern change," Weisser said Tuesday. "It's not even really going to get cold behind the system.

"I think we're lucky – it's one big system coming out, and then we're going back into relatively quiet weather here for the next few days," he said.

Not only that, it could get even warmer.

"Overall we're looking at mid- and upper-30s for highs the next several days, and then as we get into next week there are quite a few signals that we could get into a very warm pattern," Weisser said. "That's one thing that's very helpful with this system coming out warmer.

"With all of this rain, we're melting any snow that's out there, getting rid of a lot of it, and when this warmer pattern does set up next week, we'll have a much better chance of realizing some of those warmer temperatures," he said.

Those temperatures could reach the mid-50s by Monday and Tuesday, he added.

But why has it been so unseasonably warm and dry – the driest since 2005-2005, which saw only 13.6 inches of snow overall? Weisser said it's a combination of factors.

For one, we currently are experiencing a la niña pattern, which helps to decrease the strength of the jet stream, he said.

Secondly, there is a weaker North American oscillation.

"That's a little lesser-known, but (we're) starting to gain ground on understanding circulation that's up to our north," Weisser said. "We had two very strong North

American oscillations in 2009-2010, and 2010-2011, those two winters. And we had very snowy, very cold winters.

"This year it's much weaker, and we're having a very mild winter with not much precipitation. That's starting to be a stronger indicator, you could say, as we learn more and more about it," he said.

Weisser said that unfortunately, it's difficult to determine if we'll be seeing similar patterns over the next few winters.

"At times they try to forecast la niñas and el niños, and it doesn't always pan out. We don't understand ocean currents quite as well, and some of the large-scale currents," he said. "At least if they can see something like that a month or two or three in advance it's going to maybe give them a little confidence on what the upcoming months might be."

It also is difficult to determine what the spring and summer months will bring.

"There's some anecdotal information," Weisser said. "At least for Sioux Falls – which would apply to Vermillion – we looked at the 15 least-snowy winters, and of those 15 winters, 12 of the summers ended up with below-normal rainfall."

Weisser stressed that there is "no proof of a direct correlation" between winter snows and spring rains, however.

"Things can change," he said. "Sometimes these circulations can absolutely disappear much faster than anything would be expected. That's part of the learning curve there on trying to use new tools to forecast."

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