SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — How will the 2022-2023 winter impact drought conditions? How do KELOLAND Meteorologists utilize computer models? And what does the moisture and temperature outlook look like for Summer 2023? 

Those questions and more are answered by the team of KELOLAND Meteorologists in the 2023 Spring Doppler Special. You can watch the segments of the show in the video player above. 

KELOLAND Chief Meteorologist Jay Trobec and meteorologists Meghan Chada, Brian Karstens, Scot Mundt and Adam Rutt look at the more extreme conditions experienced during the spring and summer as well as how each season can set up what we’ll see in the next. 

Drought update

After one of the driest growing seasons on record in parts of KELOLAND in 2022, the winter turned wet, a trend that is setting the tone for the spring. 

The total precipitation for meteorological winter from December, January and February was lowest in the Pierre area at just over 1 and a half inches.  The Sioux Falls area finished with a near record of around 6 inches. 

We were fortunate to see relatively shallow frost depths in southern KELOLAND due to the early onset of the snow.  That, combined with dry soil from the fall, allowed much of the early snowmelt to go into the ground.  

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of South Dakota is still listed in drought but conditions have improved. No areas of the state are listed in the “extreme category” and only 5% in the “severe category.” That’s an improvement of 33% from November 2022.

The U.S. seasonal drought outlook is showing drought to either remain or slowly improve or a complete removal.

2022 derechos highlight importance of severe weather planning 

The May 12th, 2022 derecho resulted in two deaths. That storm produced a wide swath of 80 to 100 miles per hour winds in eastern KELOLAND.  

The storms quickly developed, with the surreal sight of a wall of dust moving across the prairie at close to 70 mph. Embedded wind gusts over 100 mph at times caused a trail of damage and destruction at one of the busiest times of the day, the 5 p.m. rush hour.  

Brad Stiefvater, the McCook County Emergency Manager, said even trained weather spotters struggled to deal with the massive storm. 

“When you’re watching radar, the hail comes through, you’re watching for the hook, we know where to be and where not to be,” Stiefvater said. “When it’s so many counties wide, there is no not to be.”

Makenzie Krockek, a research scientist at the Oklahoma University Institute for Public Policy Research, said people should always plan ahead to know where a safe place would be. 

“I want to be home by 5 p.m. because the storms should arrive by 7p.m.,” Krockek said. “I’m going to make sure the cat carrier is set out so I don’t have to search for it when it’s time to go to the shelter. Or make sure shoes are set out, or technologies or important meds are in a bag.”

How meteorologists use computer models 

Forecasters frequently use computer models when making weather predictions. But it’s kind of a love-hate relationship. 

Computer models do not create the forecast; the models only provide mathematical advice. Forecasters call it guidance. 

Models don’t say if it’s going to be a dry day, only the percentage probability it will be precipitation-free. Models don’t tell us if it will rain, only the percentage probability that it will. 

It is up to human forecasters to wade through the mountains of numbers produced by models to make a judgment of what is the most likely thing to happen and produce the forecast based on science and the forecaster’s experience. 

“A lot of weather amateurs post computer model output on social media and call it a forecast,” Trobec said. “It is risky to follow that advice because  – as good and strong as the computers have become – social posts often fail to show the most likely outcome. It is the art, science and experience of the human forecaster who knows how to apply various models to make a reliable prediction of what is coming.” 

Summer outlook: Wet and warm

In the KELOLAND Live Doppler Winter Special, KELOLAND meteorologist Scot Mundt predicted above average snowfall for Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Pierre and Rapid City. 

All four areas went well beyond average snowfall amounts

Mundt predicted 50.2 inches of snow for Sioux Falls and through April 20, Sioux Falls was at 64.8 inches. 

Mundt predicted 53.4 inches for Rapid City (77.2 inches), 49.2 inches for Aberdeen (73.9 inches) and 39.1 inches for Pierre (63.2 inches).

For the months May through August, Mundt said the majority of summer will be slightly wetter than average in KELOLAND. He said typically the trend is being wet and cooler or dry and warmer, but he also is predicting above average rain and temperatures. 

“I think it will come in trends or periods of wet and cool weather and dry and warm weather,” Mundt said. “But, by the end of August, I think it will average out wetter and warmer for May through August.”