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Drought Conditions Increase in South Dakota

Drier than normal conditions have expanded across South Dakota as certain areas of the state are seeing abnormally dry to severe droughts.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, intensity levels have increased, especially in the far southwest.

State climatologist Laura Edwards is surprised with the newest update on drought conditions, especially after South Dakota’s wettest year on record.

The percentage of the state that we see in drought right now is about 15 percent or so,” Edwards said. “We've gone a pretty good year and a half run here with no drought, no dryness at all, really, across the state.”

The drought monitor reports different levels of intensity, ranging from no droughts at D0 to severe drought at D4.

For South Dakota, there are levels of moderate drought in the northeast, southeast and southwestern corners. There is a stretch of severe drought in southern Fall River and Oglala Lakota counties in the southwest.

Most of the west, northeast and parts of the southeast are seeing abnormally dry conditions, where potential farming impacts could range from stunted growth of grain and pastures to limited water supply for livestock.

Edwards said the current drought outlook will become a problem if it continues past the fall season, but for now, she said it’s not as severe as droughts in 2017 or 2018.

Mike Gillispie is a service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. He said drier than normal conditions this year are needed to alleviate flooding and other wet conditions brought about by spring rain.

“The good news about having those dry conditions is it has allowed the soils and a lot of the potholes and the rivers and things to dry up enough,” he said. “With the lower precipitation as wet as they were heading into this spring here, we were very worried. So, this year, at least as far as the water situation goes, it's about the best we could hope for it.”

A group of state agencies, SDSU Extension and the National Weather Service is monitoring potential drought risks like wildfires for the next few months, but officials say long-term climate trends are heading towards wetter fall seasons.