Wet fall conditions return to SD

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- After a two-year hiatus, wet fall conditions have returned to South Dakota, creating a devastating impact on cattle with a historic blizzard and slowing crop harvest progress, explains Dennis Todey, South Dakota State Universit...

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- After a two-year hiatus, wet fall conditions have returned to South Dakota, creating a devastating impact on cattle with a historic blizzard and slowing crop harvest progress, explains Dennis Todey, South Dakota State University Extension climate specialist and state climatologist.

"Statewide, October precipitation was dominated by two early-month storms which dropped heavy rain and snow in the western part of the state," Todey says. "In a somewhat backward arrangement, the heaviest amounts were in the west while lesser amounts in the east."

Peak precipitation totals for the month were 8 to 9 inches or more. Lead had the highest precipitation total at 12.56 inches for the month, which Todey says is more than 9.5 inches above average.

"This includes both rain and water equivalent of snow," he says.

A volunteer observer from the Community Collaborative Rain Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), who is located west of Rapid City, reported 11.83 inches of liquid. Highest amounts were in and adjacent to the Black Hills. But according to reports, the plains areas north and east of the Black Hills reported widespread 7- to 8-inch amounts for the month. To learn more about CoCoRaHS visit, .


Lesser, 2- to 3-inch totals fell in the southeast part of the state.

"These totals were still above average for the month," Todey says. "Some western counties received more than six times average October precipitation, the northeast around two to four times average and the southeast just above average."

The area that received the lowest precipitation this month was in Gregory and Charles Mix counties at just near average for the month. All totaled, Todey says average October precipitation statewide ranges from less than an inch in the northwest to nearly 3 inches in the east and Black Hills.

"Historically, the western South Dakota totals were amazing with nearly all observing stations north and west of a line from the southern Black Hills to Aberdeen reporting either the wettest or second-wettest October on record," he says. "In the case of Lead, it was the second-highest monthly total for any month of any year."

Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension climate field specialist says previous records for these locations tended to come from 1998, 1982 and a handful of other years.

"The impact of the heavy precipitation in the form of the snow has been well noted from the loss of livestock, some loss of wildlife and damage to infrastructure across the region," Edwards says. "But carry-over effects are still impacting the area with very wet soils limiting access to rangeland and other fields."

The benefit Edwards notes is that nearly all ponds and dugouts in the west now have ample water available again. In the row crop areas of the state, this fall precipitation has slowed harvest -- especially compared with the past two years.

"As of Oct. 28, (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) reports, nearly all beans were harvested with the corn about half harvested," she says.


During the past two years, very dry fall conditions -- and dry overall conditions in 2012 -- allowed much earlier harvest comparatively. In fact, Todey says the dry conditions in 2012 were severe enough that at times significant yield losses occurred because crops were too dry to harvest, leading to shattering of beans.

Long-term trend

The longer-term trend, particularly in the northeast part of the state, Todey says, has been toward wetter fall seasons in the past 30 years.

"This has meant few very dry falls and more very wet falls," he says. "The impacts of these wet fall months are similar in slowing harvest progress and carrying over wet soil conditions to the spring."

The impact of the wetness will carry on through the rest of the season with some harvest activities delayed, Todey says, at least until soils freeze and allow access to fields.

"The carry-over impact until spring still depends on winter and spring precipitation and temperature," he says. "But an increased risk of delayed planting exists because of the wet fall."

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