Extreme drought led off the winter but we started seeing signs that Arctic air would arrive by December. The sudden shift to bitter cold arrived with plenty of snow for eastern South Dakota. Over the past two weeks, we've had little opportunity for widespread melting.
Snow has a big impact on high and low temperatures. We often lose around five degrees of warmth when snow covers between two to five inches. The setup changes overnight. When skies clear with snow on the ground, the mercury plummets just after sunset. Depending on the snowpack, we can easily drop off five or more degrees. Snow with light winds often leads to fog by the morning, which is something we've been monitoring.
Because of December's snow, we've gone below zero seven times this month. Last year, we only did that once. Last Friday, Pine Ridge hit 17 degrees below zero, which was the coldest temperature in the lower 48 states that day. But when we compare this winter to last winter, it's not just a difference in early snowfall. Storm tracks play a huge part in whether we see a lot or nothing at all. So far this winter, eastern KELOLAND received a favorable shake from Mother Nature. Even with a possible January thaw, the coldest air usually arrives after the New Year.