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Slow Drought Improvement
The most recent Drought Monitor has upgraded western South Dakota to a D2 (severe drought). This has resulted from above near to above average precipitation over the last 6 months. Particularly in the last 30 days, above average precipitation
has begun slow drought improvement. Dryer conditions in eastern South Dakota have introduced D0 (moderate drought conditions) in this area.
Long range forecasts give no good indication of above/below average spring and summer precipitation. Thus, slow improvement seems to be the best course.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist

Coming Soon: Soil Temperature Maps
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Precipitation during the period April 14-20 brought widespread rain across South Dakota. While amounts varied greatly, widespread > 1.0" amounts occurred over the eastern of the state. Several heavier amounts were reported on April 14-15 as Aberdeen (0.99"), Sisseton (1.08"), and Kennebec (1.33") set record precipitation amounts for the day. Other isolated >2" amounts were noted in Kadoka. The storm system also brought severe weather in the form of large hail near Yankton and Sioux Falls. These events followed record temperatures earlier in the week ahead of the strong area of low pressure.
    The rain interrupted a very dry period in South Dakota. Except for the snow fall in the southeast part of the state on April 6-7, this rainfall was the first significant precipitation since the middle of March for much of the eastern part of the state. On the average we would expect over 2" of precipitation during this time. March precipitation totals for many locations were less than an inch.
   The rainfall has improved surface moisture conditions. And subsoil conditions at least the eastern part of the state are considered adequate according to South Dakota Ag Statistics as of April 13.

While this rainfall improves the dry situation, more is needed to correct the dry conditions.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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A dry period in March and early April has given way to above average precipitation throughout most of the state over the last 30 days. Precipitation totals have been larger than normal throughout most of the state except for a couple isolated
locations and the far northwest.
This moves precipitation totals in the right direction, but still does not overcome the longer term precipitation deficits over the last 1–2 years. Precipitation deficits are still 6–9” in the south central and north central parts of the state. But the drought
severity has been reduced for most of the
state as indicated by the Drought Monitor.
The outlook for the period 05.12 – 05.16 from the Climate Prediction Center calls for cooler and wetter conditions over most of the state.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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Low temperatures over the western 2/3 of South Dakota fell to below freezing during the early morning hours of 20 May 2003. Particularly hard hit were areas in the southwest and northwest parts of the state where temperatures fell to the mid 20’s at
several locations for several hours. Temperatures in the Black Hills were as low as 16°F at Deerfield. The Rapid City Airport set a record low temperature of 25°F.
    These temperatures were cold enough to do damage to crops depending on the crop and stage of development. Damage information is still being gathered.
How uncommon are such temperatures this late in the spring? Let’s look at a couple locations. Here are the average last dates of the following temperatures for the period 1971-2000.

32°F 28°F 24°F
Pine Ridge
While the mid-20’s temperatures experienced are not unprecedented, they are uncommon for this time of year. In fewer than 1 out of 10 years would you expect such a late freeze in these areas.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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Temperatures over the Memorial Day weekend warmed to near average highs creating a very nice weekend for campers and other enjoying outdoor activities. These near-average temperatures were very uncommon for South Dakota this May. Much of the month has been below average for temperatures for much of the state.

Cooler temperatures and moist soils in many areas slowed field work and limited the development of seed already planted. Several county extension educators had reported a slowed accumulation of GDDs. Let’s look at how GDDs (50-86) are accumulating compared to average at a few example sites. (Note the slight difference in accumulation period)

Apr. 26-May 27 2003
Average May

The loss of GDDs early in the season comes at a time that could benefit crops since above average temperatures would spur development usually without stressing the crop. Higher than average temperatures would not stress the crop at this time of year, particularly where soil conditions are moist. The seasonal accumulation will have to be monitored for continued slow development.

Users can calculate their own GDD accumulation from data from the research farms around the state at . Other stations will be added to this feature to provide more complete state coverage.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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Cool conditions persisted in the last week across South Dakota seemingly limiting crop development. Crop progress, though, seems to continue to progress.
Crop conditions as reported by the Ag Statistics service continue as expected. Most planting and progress is near the 5-year average, except for soybeans, which are 23% emerged. This compares with the 5-yr average of 39% emerged by this date. Sunflower planting also lags the 5-yr average of41% at a weekly value of 19%. (Numbers taken from the Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin for data through June 1). These numbers are interesting when comparing the average temperatures over the last 30 days in the eastern part of the state especially. Cold conditions continue to linger with fewer than 5 days above average over the last month in the eastern part of the state.

30 Day Average Temperatures
Sioux Falls
Rapid City
Nearly the whole state has experienced below average temperatures during the last 30 days. While this has likely limited crop development somewhat, it has reduced evaporative demand. With all but part of the north-central and northeast part of the state being dry over the same 30-day period, the limited rainfall has been less of a detriment. The 8-14 day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center calls for ac continuation of near to below average temperatures with near to above average rainfall.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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Severe weather rumbled over a large part of South Dakota for the second time in a week (several hail storms occurred on June 5th). Southeastern South Dakota was the location of most of the severe weather on both days. The most common severe report was large hail as it was for the severe weather situation last week. The report of the largest hail was from Yankton with a 2” diameter report. Many other locations reported 1” or larger hail. The storm reports from South Dakota and the country can be seen in the included graphic. A few tornado reports and other wind gusts above
50 mph were also reported.
   One trailer was destroyed by high winds near Fulton by high winds. Other damage reports are still being gathered. The more severe damage seems to have been from some larger tornadoes near O’Neill, NE.
While the severe weather was not welcome, the storms brought some needed rain to some very dry counties. Yankton was the big winner with 1.4” of precipitation. These storms followed a week of small sporadic rainfalls across the state. Most of the state received some rain last week as small showers developed and dissipated on several days. The total rainfall from most of these was a few tenths. This was enough to hold off dry conditions, but not improve the situation. Sisseton and the
northern Black Hills were the big winners of the week reporting over 2” of rain. Most other locations totaled over an inch. Average values for this time of year range from about 2/3” per week in the northwest to near an inch per week in the east.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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Contrasts in rainfall seem to be the watchword over the state. Many locations in the state have received relatively heavy rainfalls. Many of these have been isolated as thunderstorms have fired over an area while moving little. Thus, if you were in a storm you received decent rainfall, while locations nearby received little. Light winds in the upper atmosphere have been the culprit as storms that occurred had little push to move. Thus, rainfall was confined and not widespread.
    This situation was carried to an extreme in the western in Fall River and Shannon Counties where flooding occurred over the weekend and Tuesday as storms dropped 2-4+ inch rains to produce localized flooding near Pine Ridge. Nearby stations are still behind on 30-day total precipitation (see Fig.). Rainfall in the northeast and Black Hills has greatly improved their drought situation. Overall, conditions remain fairly dry across the state as areas of the north central and northwest have had little rain to help improve the dryness.

Coming soon (temporal plots for the real-time data).

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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The severe weather of the last couple weeks that had consisted mainly of hail and wind damage took a more serious turn Tuesday night as many confirmed tornadoes occurred in eastern South Dakota. The total number of tornadoes and the amount of damage are being determined by National Weather Service damage survey teams. But estimates of several dozen tornadoes in South Dakota alone are possible. Damage was reported in many southeastern South Dakota counties by the tornadoes.
In addition crop damage reports are trickling in from the county extension offices. Some wind damage has been reported as well as some flooding damage, especially in the Lincoln, Clay and Turner County areas where radar estimated precipitation indicates possibly over 5” of rain in some locations (see Fig.). (Just for comparison; that’s about half of what parts of the northwest part of the state received all last year!).
   The severe weather event drew many storm chasers to the area leading to some impressive storm photos. Some are posted on various media sites including and
One other significant meteorological event of the week was a report of extremely large hail in Nebraska. A National Weather Service employee from Omaha verified a report of a single hailstone that was 6.5” in diameter and 17.4” in circumference. This is slightly smaller than the largest hailstone ever recorded from Coffeyville, KS in 1970. Damage from these hailstones in Nebraska caused 10-12” divots in the ground and produced a hole in a roof large enough to crawl through.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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ARCHIVE NEWS 07.15.03:
Early week temperatures finally reached the 100 mark for the first time this year as Philip reached a high of 103 F. Most other stations west of the river also had highs well in to the 90s. This is the first stretch of very hot weather for the year. The hot temperatures will probably stress vegetation which has received just enough rainfall this spring and early summer to green-up in many locations, but not enough to completely correct the drought conditions. Reports from extension educators and specialists have noted that pasture production has been lower despite the green-up. Some areas of the west have received little rainfall still. The cooler temperatures have reduced the possible stress and limited the evaporation from ponds to conserve the limited moisture.
    How much has the coolness limited crop development? In previous weeks we have shown images of how cool the temperatures were compared to average (archives). This week we include the growing degree days accumulated since May 1 for the state. You can see from the image that the cool spring has kept GDDs below average for the state. Deviations vary but are around 10% below average for most locations. Little “catch-up” will occur at this time of year since climatological average highs are near the maximum of 86 F. Despite this, crop reports show that development is near expected for this time of year.
   According to data released by the South Dakota Ag Statistics service (July 1), oat and spring wheat heading are ahead of the 5 year average (oat 83% - 2003, 67% - 5yr average; spring wheat 86% - 2003, 72% - 5yr average). Corn and bean indicators are near average for this time of year. The next marks to watch for in development are corn tasseling later this month.
   Crop conditions are generally centered around the good category, except for winter wheat which has 4% very poor and 11% poor this week. Pasture and range condition were listed as 3% poor and 11% very poor. This may drop based on the heat of this week.
   Something to note on the web site this week during the higher temperatures and dew points is a map of current statewide heat index values. These are the National Weather Service calculation of the hourly index combining the heat and moisture content of the air for humans. The ones for livestock are different. We will be providing these soon as well as a length of time above certain criteria. This will assist livestock owners in tracking the length of hazardous conditions for your livestock.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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ARCHIVE NEWS 07.22.03:
High temperatures again pushed over the century mark in the western part of the state during the week of July 6-13. The big winner seems to have been Philip at 109 F. This is causing problems for some pasture and range land in areas that have not received sufficient precipitation to recharge soil moisture. The lack of a soil moisture bank has ended the production of cool season grasses and is limiting the growth of warm season grasses. The reports of the worst situation seem to be confirmed in and around the Butte County area. Note the area on the satellite-derived vegetation map on the image at left. (Click to enlarge it). The areas in red and park are colored to reflect the most stressed vegetation. The Butte County area is the center of the worst part of the state.
Another odd location exists in the far northeast part of the state. You may remember the pictures of flooding from Roberts County from mid-June. Many areas of Marshall, Day and Roberts Counties had 7-8”+ of rain during June. These amounts contrasted impressively with Grant County where totals were only 1.25-1.5” for June.


The new part of the web site to feature this week is a feature that allows you to calculate water use for corn, beans, or alfalfa. To view this page, go to: You can choose your location around the state, the time period, and the crop. You will get water use information as well as the meteorological data used to derive the water use. Check it out and let us know if you have any comments.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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ARCHIVE NEWS 07.29.03:
The feature this week will spotlight a few of the new aspects of the climate web site. A recent change to improve the loading speed has been to move this feature to its own page, where you can also find an archive of previous news features to review timely topics or search for different climate/weather events. Note that you can also click on a link on the home page to choose a text-only page if you have a very slow connection.

With the help of Chirag Shukla (state climate programmer) and Dr. Hal Werner, extension irrigation specialist, we now have a page where you can calculate the estimated water use by corn, beans or alfalfa during the growing season. You can accumulate these throughout the growing season based on your choice of dates.

For those of our users located in and near Brookings needing Brookings data, you can find current and historical data for Brookings. Click on the Brookings weather data link to be able to download daily data through yesterday on the web site.

If you want to know what is happening right now in Brookings or Dell Rapids, click on the link taking you to that page (you’ll find this at the bottom of the main page). You will find a table showing conditions up to the last update (within 5 minutes). But you can also hit the condition description to see a plot of the data for that calendar day for temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation and rainfall. See how much rain is occurring on the Agronomy Farm northeast of the SDSU campus while it happens!

Let us know if there are other features you would like to see. We are continuing to add more data and features on a weekly basis.
   There may be problems in getting current data out from July 25-29 as power will be off in the building for an upgrade. The web site should still work for other data through the time. Let us know if something isn’t working.
   We are also available for talks if you would like someone to do a climate/weather presentation for your group. You’ll find contact information on the main page.

Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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ARCHIVE NEWS 08.12.03:
The improving dryness conditions have stopped and begun slipping backward throughout the month on July. Despite below-average rains in June, conditions had not worsened. Rains have slowed greatly over most of the west-river area. Coupled with extremely hot conditions, the drought from the last several years has become apparent again. Philip, Chamberlain and Winner all recorded high temperatures above 110°F last week.
   Rapid City is an excellent example. Rainfall for July has been 0.49” through July 28. The monthly average total is 2.03”. As is usually the case in Plains, dry conditions are associated with warm temperatures. High temperatures in Rapid City have been at or above 95°F 12 of the 28 days in July and at or above 100°F 5 days. This has stressed vegetation that was surviving on less than average precipitation already (Fig 1). Note the red area arcing around the north and east sides of the Black Hills in the included satellite-derived image. Red areas are stressed, blue and green areas are not stressed. Compared to last year the situation is not nearly as dire.
   Reports of stressed crops are occurring even in the eastern part of the state as areas that have missed the rainfalls in July are showing the stress of the lack of moisture. Note that while the west has seen the worst of the conditions, most of the state is below average on rainfall for the last 30 days (Fig. 2).
   What is the good news? Climatologically, temperatures start cooling at this time of year, reducing the water use of crops. And the 6-10 day and 8-14 day outlooks include an improved chance of precipitation in particularly the western part of the state.


Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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ARCHIVE NEWS 08.26.03:
The warm temperatures and lack of rainfall during July have returned the western 1/2 - 2/3 of South Dakota to drought or near-drought conditions. Early season rainfall maintained some semblance of moisture. But after the third week of June, little substantial rainfall has occurred over much of the state. Many associated problems have surfaced.
   Fire Danger conditions in the western part of the state are very high to extreme. You can find this image updated daily at:
Reported from extension educators have indicated crops firing from the heat and dryness. Some areas are considering chopping for silage. Range conditions continue to worsen and water supplies are short in some areas or have poor quality.
What is the good news out of this? This deterioration overall is not as bad as last year and has occurred about a month later in the summer. Since we are well into the climatological period of decreasing temperatures, the moisture demand will be falling off. Unfortunately, current 8-14 forecasts don’t give indications of big improvement in moisture.

Rainfall Totals in Western SD for July:

Ft. Meade
Hill City
Dennis Todey
State Climatologist
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