The national climate forecast for April 2015, released March 31 by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, indicates drier than average conditions to continue in South Dakota and the Great Plains.
The drought outlook for the month ahead also shows likely expansion of drought across much of the state in the month ahead, said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.
“This latest outlook projects an increased probability of drier than average conditions in South Dakota, Nebraska, and parts of surrounding states,” Edwards said. “This is not good news for us, given that we are already going into the growing season with a moisture deficit from the last several months.
She did add that one benefit of dry conditions in the early growing season is that planting and field preparation for spring planted crops, such as corn and soybeans, can be completed faster and more efficiently without saturated soils or ponding, as has been seen in many recent years in the eastern part of the state.
“There is some concern already that winter wheat has had some frost damage following the brief thaw in February in the western and central counties,” said Dennis Todey, SDSU Extension Climate Specialist & South Dakota State Climatologist. “For the wheat that did survive the warm period, now the lack of precipitation is a growing concern.”
He added that there was also winter wheat that did not emerge last fall because of the dry conditions.
With the dry outlook for the month ahead, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center also projects further expansion of drought conditions across most of South Dakota by month’s end.
Edwards suggested this may be a conservative estimate, as wildland fire activity continues in the western counties, an area that is not included in the expansion of drought in the drought outlook map.
“Wildland fire is a complicated indicator of drought”, Edwards said.
She explained that it relies on the wet years, such as 2013 and 2014, to grow vegetation to provide fuel for the fires. “The lack of precipitation since last fall has sufficiently dried out the vegetation to cause the fire hazards that we are seeing now,” Edwards said.