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Climate Predicts Rainfall Delays, Drought Expansion, Warm July
South Dakota Ag Connection - 06/19/2017

Recent rainfall throughout South Dakota has put drought expansion on hold and offers hope for the summer-season crops and gardens.

"After some record warmth in early June and several weeks of dry weather, rainfall finally came to the region this week," said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension State Climatologist.

According to data, most of eastern South Dakota received about 2 inches of rain. Some areas in the northeastern portion of the state are reporting more than 4 inches for the week of June 12, 2017. Much of western and central South Dakota received between 1 and 2 inches.

"The rains brought welcome relief to dry soils that were affecting crop growth, as well as gardens and yards," Edwards said.

Despite some severe weather and thunderstorm winds, she added that early damage reports show that there were relatively few losses.

"Most corn and soybeans were small enough to avoid significant hail or wind injury," Edwards said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, updated June 15, shows some expansion of severe drought conditions (D2) in central South Dakota, which now includes 13 percent of the state.

Moderate drought (D1) was slightly reduced due to weekly rainfall totals, primarily in the south central and east regions. Forty-five percent of the state is now in moderate drought or worse.

"Climatologists and others will be watching drought closely over the next couple of weeks, however, as the forecast appears to turn dry and warm again," Edwards said. "Drought conditions are severe. Recent rains will not be able to sustain crops and gardens for very long."

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center released their update on June 15 as well.

The temperature outlook for July 2017 indicates higher likelihood of warmer than average conditions in the month ahead.

"Almost the entire country is leaning towards warmer climate in July, with the exception of the northwest states," Edwards said.

The precipitation outlook for July does not show a clear signal for either wet or dry conditions in South Dakota.

"Wetter conditions are favored to our northwest, and drier to our southwest, so we could be in a transition from a drier to wetter pattern in the month ahead," she said.

Obviously, if drier conditions persist, Edwards said this will be challenging for South Dakota's farmers.

"Corn acres are pollinating in early to mid-July - it's a critical period for corn - a time when farmers do not want their corn acres impacted by heat or drought stress because those stresses have a negative impact on yields at harvest," Edwards explained.

The long-range outlooks for the Northern Plains continue to favor wetter than average conditions for the months of July through September.

"Much of this year, we have seen strong swings from dry to wet, cold to warm and back again," Edwards said. "The climate computer models may be picking up on a transition to a wetter, warmer period in late summer, which could be beneficial for soybean growers especially."

Although agriculture acres benefit from recent rains, the moisture brings with it increased weed and pest pressures.

"Now that there is sufficient moisture in the topsoil layers in most areas; hayland, pastures and grasses will show some short term growth and green-up as well, but the climate outlook remains challenging for long-term growth through the summer," Edwards said.

Wildland fire will continue to be a concern in the weeks ahead, Edwards said, pointing to the fact that there are a lot of dry or dormant grasses that can burn easily.

Most counties in the state have burn bans in place to help prevent large fires from occurring in the driest areas.

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