As of July 5, roughly 90% of the state is experiencing some degree of drought. Much of Central and Western South Dakota is listed in Moderate to Severe Drought, with the North Central part of the state affected hardest.
Drought Termination & Amelioration Tool
While ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’ convey some sense of severity, they are qualitative descriptors that still leave many wondering what exactly they mean in any practical sense. One tool to make these categories a bit more tangible is the Drought Termination and Amelioration Application developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Estimating precipitation needed to end drought.
This tool provides the amount of precipitation needed to end the drought in one month. The application tends to aggregate over a larger area, which misses some of the nuanced weather extremes experienced by local conditions. Nonetheless, it offers a sense of how unusual the current precipitation trends are compared to long-term averages. For example, currently most of Central and Western South Dakota would need over 6 inches of rain to fall in the next month to alleviate drought conditions. To put this into perspective, the North-Central region has received over 6 inches of rainfall in July just once (1993) in the last 120 years.
Tracking expected precipitation return.
In a more practical sense, this tool also provides some additional information for farmers to incorporate into their operations. Small grains harvest is now beginning across the state and fall planting is not far off. Longer-term forecasts predict a return to normal conditions in the coming months and this tool can help track the expected return of precipitation and give some sense of soil moisture conditions throughout harvest and as winter wheat planting nears.