SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Since December, South Dakota has seen a series of major snow events that have dumped feet of snow across the state.

As of noon on Tuesday, February 21, 2023, Sioux Falls had received 44.8 inches of snow throughout the winter season. While this might seem like a lot of snow, and it is, it’s not an exceptionally large amount of snow.

KELOLAND Meteorologist Adam Rutt gave us a breakdown of just how this winter has played out, and how it fits into the raucous past year of weather we’ve experienced.

You can get his take on this developing system in this forecast from Tuesday’s Midday show:

While January seemed at large to be a bit more of a mild month than December was, or than February is shaping up to be, Adam pointed out something of interest.

“Sioux Falls for the month of January had, if I’m remembering it correctly, had about 21 inches of snow for the month,” Adam said. “Granted, over half of that came from the storm at the very beginning [of January].”

Including the system we’re entering now, Adam says we’ve had what are really three different systems.

Let’s get back to that, “not an exceptionally large amount of snow” thing for a moment.

The south central and southeast portions of the state have gotten dumped on throughout the season as these systems have come through the region, however, Adam pushed back a bit on my suggestion that we’ve gotten way more snow than usual.

“We’re almost at average for the entire season in Sioux Falls,” said Adam, noting the ~44 inches total Sioux Falls has received. “We average around 45, so pending what we get with this [system], I don’t think it’s a going to be a matter of if we are over by the time Thursday comes around, it’s going to more to what extent.”

So while we do have a bit more snow than usual by this point in the winter, there is a chance we finish out not too far over the average. So why does it feel like we’re so far over?

According to Adam, part of the reason may be due to last winter’s relative mildness. “Last winter was so easy,” he remarked. “We really didn’t have any major storms come through — in fact, Sioux Falls, for the entirety of the season, only got a total of about 19 inches of snow.”

Another reason this winter may seem a bit more harsh than others is due to the pattern we’ve experienced.

“It’s just been how the atmosphere has been just in a very favorable pattern to get these storms to form roughly every couple of weeks,” Adam said. “That’s just kind of been the case this winter, we’ve had that setup that has not really let up.”

Of course, this winter is just a chapter in the book of the severe weather that was the past year.

“Interesting, I think would be the best way to put it,” described Adam when I asked him to summarize the past 12 months or so. “The fact that we had the two derechos in the span of about six weeks — we had that one day in August when we set an all-time record for one-day rain — but if you take that one day out, where we had all that rain, the summer was incredibly dry.”

Wind storm, wind storm, drought, flooding, drought, cold snap blizzard, blizzard, blizzard.

The past several months has truly been a wild ride. Adam tells us that the atmosphere prefers to be in a state of equilibrium, “so when we kind of get put over to one extreme, say a lot of really hot weather or dry weather, the atmosphere will try to swing back to the other side to try and correct things — that’s where we get those big swings.”

Despite this trend, predicting what the future holds is still a challenge. “For example, we’re in a La Nina pattern again,” Adam said. “We were in a La Nina pattern last year, and look at the two vastly different results.”

According to NOAA, La Nina refers to a large-scale weather pattern in which strong trad winds push warm air west toward Asia, while cold waters off the west coast of the Americas rise to the surface, pushing the jet stream wind current north. This often results in drought in the southern U.S., flooding in the Pacific northwest, milder winters in the South, and cooler winters in the north.

“We’ve been in a La Nina pattern for the last three winters,” said Adam. “We’ve had different results. The first of those three (2020-2021), close to average, a little bit below; last winter, way below — pretty easy overall; this winter, far more active.”

For those who still insist that this winter has been the worst in decades, Adam says there is some validity to that thought.

“For example, our snowiest winter was 1968-69, where we had 95 inches of snow for Sioux Falls — so if somebody were to say ‘oh this is the worst since the 60s’ okay fair, but the snowiest winter on record, 2017-18,” said Adam. “That was 70 inches of snow — the number six was also in the last decade — 2015-16.”

Overall, Adam says how ‘severe’ the winter is can really be subjective, but that the data shows we’ve actually had quite a few ‘bad winters’ spread across the past several decades.

With around 44 inches of snow in Sioux Falls as of noon on Tuesday, we’re still a ways off from the highest totals the city has seen in a winter. One reason it may seem like we’ve had a lot more snow, is that we’ve gotten it all quickly.

“It’s a case of getting everything in one shot, or nickel and diming your way up to 30, 40, 50 inches,” said Adam, noting that the majority of the snow Sioux Falls has gotten this season has come in just three events.