Wet, Cold Spring Expected

 
Farmers, brace yourselves for a long, slow spring planting season with colder than average temperatures and more moisture. That’s not what producers want to hear, but it’s what to prepare for, according to Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension State Climatologist.
 
“The outlook for the next three months from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is showing generally colder than average temperatures over the eastern two-thirds of South Dakota,” Edwards says. “That pattern will be centered over the central and northern plains.”
 
Although farmers are currently still fighting with snow from winter, precipitation patterns aren’t looking any better, Edwards adds.
 
“It’s the same story for precipitation,” she says. “Most of South Dakota is slightly favored for wetter conditions from April to June. And it’s not just our state; it’s the whole middle of the country, from the Rockies to the East Coast.”
 
Edwards notes that the expected weather outlook for 2019 is not new; rather, the patterns have been fairly consistent, especially for May to June. She says that climatologists have two different types of models they look at to determine weather patterns, and both types are showing a wet signal for the upcoming season.
 
“There are a few trends driving this pattern,” Edwards says. “Our spring and fall seasons have been getting wetter faster than other seasons from 30 to 50 years ago.”
 
This year, El Nino is also driving additional moisture into North America, which traditionally causes a wetter spring.
 
“This is a weak El Nino, but over the last few weeks, there have been more consistent wet patterns compared to earlier in the winter,” she says.
 
“When you have really wet soils, it turns into a feedback loop,” Edwards says. “There’s water on the surface, which results in cooler temperatures and more moisture in the air in general.”
 
Flood season is currently upon the region, and Edwards says that the next couple of weeks will continue to see more flooding.
 
“We’ll see flooding in eastern South Dakota on the James, Big Sioux and Vermillion rivers,” she says. “It hasn’t even started melting yet up north on the James River, so more flooding is still ahead of us. But the worst-case scenario would be getting rain on top of snow, since the soil is frozen four feet deep.”
 
Edwards notes that the region hasn’t had a huge flood since 2011, and there is still a lot of snow farther north that will be melting and moving south. According to Edwards, there is a greater than 50 percent chance of the James River hitting a major flood level.
 
“It won’t be record flooding, but it will be significant,” she says. “Don’t ignore that. A lot of rural roads and gravel roads will be tough to travel. It’s going to be an issue.”
 
For farmers, this means that the soil will be slower to warm up, and wetter conditions may delay planting. Wet conditions and rutted roads mean that heavy equipment has the possibility of getting stuck, so producers should try to prepare for the possibility of that situation.