Very Dry Start to 2015, Signs of Moisture in May

Short and Long Term Outlooks Show Drastic Improvement In The Early Season Rain Deficit

It’s no secret that we have had a very dry start to the year and sadly that has slipped many of us into a severe drought just as we are getting into planting season. Some spots are more than 4 inches below normal to start the year when it comes to precipitation but signs are finally looking up.

Our lack of precipitation to start the year certainly stems from an abnormally dry winter in which there was a lack of snowfall. There were several spots that saw nearly a foot less of snow than the average. Some places were close to two feet below average! East central and northeast South Dakota saw the greatest shortfall with places like Aberdeen and Sisseton seeing nearly 18 inches less than average. Huron finished 21.2” below average. The pictures below tell the tale.

This lack of snowfall meant that there was less moisture to tap into when the snow finally melted in the spring. To put it into perspective, March, which is usually the snowiest month of the year for places across the Sioux Empire, only managed to produce 1.7” (8.4” – AVG) of snow in Sioux Falls. Here’s a list of several other places across the area and their lack of a March snowfall:

That lackluster March put us in an early hole to dig out from, no pun intended, when it comes to precipitation and the month of April didn’t do us any favors either.

The old notion of “April Showers, Bring May Flowers” didn’t seem to be true this year as most of central South Dakota saw less than half an inch of rainfall during the 30-day period. The hardest hit were those to the north of Highway 14 in central South Dakota, where places like Pierre and Chamberlain were only able to muster 0.49” and 0.41”, respectively.

Combine the lack of snow in March and the extremely dry month of April and you have the perfect ingredients for the formation of a drought. Due to the lack of moisture, South Dakota and Minnesota have seen a significant percentage of the state fall into a moderate drought and as of the last week of April both states have areas of severe drought. Pictured below are images of the precipitation deficit and the resulting drought. The April 28th drought update showed an increase in all areas of drought with 16% of South Dakota in a severe drought and 77% in a moderate drought. Minnesota has seen it even worse with 32% of the state in a severe drought and 94% of the state in a moderate drought.

Precip Deficit as of May 4, 2015                        Drought Update from April 28, 2015

As shown above, there are several spots that are nearly 4 to 5 inches below normal on precipitation since the start of the year. That lack of moisture has led to the driest start to the year for Pierre since records started in 1908. Sioux Falls is off the the 9th driest start in the city’s 119 years of weather records and Watertown comes in with its 4th driest start to the year. Below is a list of the areas that have been hit the hardest with the lack of rainfall. For a list of other cities click here!

Despite the talk about all this dry weather and the drought, there is finally good news when it comes to moisture! Both the near term and long term outlooks show a “wetter” than average pattern and that pattern starts as soon as Tuesday as our first precipitation of the month moves in.

The 7-day forecast has plenty of opportunities to gather enough rainfall to start our climb out of this drought, and hopefully by this time next week, we will have taken a nice chunk out of our precipitation deficit.

The Climate Prediction Center also has some good news. Both of their long term outlooks peg South Dakota in the “Probability of Above Normal” for precipitation, both are pictured below.

Outlook Valid May 10th – 14th                        Outlook Valid May 12th – 18th

While we will still be far away from average by the end of the next two weeks, any moisture is good moisture. This rainfall will go a long ways in helping to get us out of this drought.

-Brandon Spinner
Chief Meteorologist