Drought relief will require waiting for spring
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
The best recommendation that weather experts can currently make about whether South Dakota will find some relief from the 2012 drought centers on waiting for spring.|
Dennis Todey, state climatologist, said that a weak La Nina system currently operating in the Pacific Ocean will likely subside for the month of March, replaced by neutral weather conditions. Todey, an associate professor at South Dakota State University, said the storm system that hit Lake County and other parts of the northern Great Plains about two weeks ago and this weekend's predicted snowstorm were outcomes of the La Nina system.
"We have one more storm front coming early next week, but after that we should have fewer chances to receive precipitation," Todey said.
The National Weather Service has forecasted 2 to 4 inches of snow for Thursday night and Friday for areas north of I-90 and 3 to 5 inches for areas south of the interstate. Another snowstorm is forecasted for Sunday night and Monday but weather watchers can offer few details concerning its path and severity.
According to Todey, the weak La Nina climate conditions should fade with the start of March and conditions should switch to a more neutral position. He said that officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will make the latest weather outlooks available to the public Thursday during two presentations held in Washington, D.C.
Todey said the latest information indicated that, "In the next 30 days or so, the further east you go in South Dakota, the better chance you have for precipitation." He added that West River residents had an equal chance in experiencing either wet or dry conditions.
Officials with the U.S. Drought Monitor have categorized all of South Dakota as having drought conditions ranging from moderate to exceptional. Lake County is currently rated as a severe drought area, but the officials indicate that some improvement is possible within the next three months.
According to Todey, the state shouldn't expect significant relief from snowmelt when spring weather arrives.
"We can't really catch up on our moisture deficit through snowfall," Todey said. "Much of that snowmelt moisture will turn into runoff that won't soak into the ground."
Residents will need to wait for the ground to thaw before large amounts of precipitation can soak into the soil.
Information from the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that southeastern South Dakota is about 3 to 4 inches below average for precipitation.
La Nina is a naturally-occurring climate phenomenon located above the tropical Pacific Ocean, and it is the outcome from interactions between the ocean surface and atmosphere.
During La Nina, cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures influence global weather patterns. The La Nina effect typically occurs every three-to-five years, and back-to-back episodes occur about 50 percent of the time. One such La Nina episode developed during the June 2010-May 2011 time period.
Through information distributed by NOAA, Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, has explained that La Nina often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains and warmer temperatures to the southern states.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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