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Climate Predicts Wetter Than Average Spring

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BROOKINGS, S.D. - Wetter than average conditions are expected across South Dakota through the spring, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's Climate Outlook released Feb. 16, 2017.

"Beginning in March, the outlook shows an increased probability of wetter than average conditions, especially in western and central South Dakota," said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension State Climatologist.

This does not come as a surprise, said Edwards, pointing to the recent wetter than average conditions across most of the state. "A steady stream of rain and snow events have crossed the region this season. As a result, all but the far northwest, has had above average precipitation," Edwards said.

The March 2017 climate outlook predicts more moisture. "If this becomes a reality, it could further alleviate drought concerns in the western counties and potentially provide good moisture for spring growing conditions," Edwards said.

Frost potential for winter wheat

The temperature outlook for March 2017 indicates cooler than average conditions could prevail in the northwestern corner of South Dakota. Elsewhere in the state, Edwards said the data shows equal chances of warmer, cooler or near-average temperatures.

Based on current conditions, Edwards added that February 2017 will likely end up much warmer than average. "The current forecast shows continued warm weather through the end of the month," she said.

Substantial snow melt occurring the week of Feb. 13 could have adverse effects on winter wheat, Edwards explained, by potentially exposing it to frost or freeze later this spring. "For now, this pattern will spill into early March. Then the area of high pressure that is parked over the region will gradually move eastward. Temperatures will likely return to near average for this time of year or slightly cooler than average," Edwards said.

During the months of January and February, the west has experienced cooler-than-average temperatures while the eastern region of South Dakota has experienced warmer-than-average.

"In our state, the Missouri River has been the dividing line between colder than average and warmer than average temperatures so far this winter season," Edwards said of the weather phenomena.

Three Month Outlook

The outlook for the next three months leans toward an increased likelihood of wetter than average conditions. "March through May could overall be wet, which could create muddy calving conditions and limited access to crop fields, slowing planting progress," Edwards said.

She added that this could especially be an issue on the eastern side of the state which is carrying over excess soil moisture from a wet fall. "The Big Sioux watershed is a region that could especially have some slow progress this spring," she said.

For the western region, the additional moisture that is forecast could help pasture and forage conditions and setting the stage for a good small grains growing season.

Warmer conditions are also in the three-month forecast for the southeastern corner of South Dakota.

"This could potentially be good news for farmers who could use some warmth to heat up and dry out soils during corn and soybean planting season," Edwards said.

Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center. Figure 1. Temperature outlook for March 2017. Northwestern South Dakota is more likely to have cooler than average temperatures in the month ahead.  

Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center. Figure 2. Precipitation outlook for March 2017. The western two-thirds of South Dakota has an increased likelihood of wetter than average conditions. 

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