SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Residents of western South Dakota have likely heard the phrase “Banana Belt” as it applies to an area from Rapid City down to Hot Springs.
What does “Banana Belt” mean and is it real?
“A banana belt refers to a portion of a larger geographic area that enjoys warmer weather conditions than the region as a whole, especially during the winter months,” according to Academic Accelerator.
KELOLAND meteorologist Scot Mundt doesn’t really use the phrase but he does know the Black Hills and corresponding winds can create interesting weather conditions in the region.
Aaron Dye, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, said “Banana Belt,” generally refers to the foothills area of the Black Hills, which includes Rapid City, Custer and down to Hot Springs.
Visit Rapid City credits the “Banana Belt” effect for mild winters in Rapid City. Visit Rapid City says on its website the average high temperature in Rapid City from November through March is 46 degrees.
“Rapid City tends to warm up faster (than other nearby cities),” Mundt said. That’s because in large part of the compressed air in the foothills that warms up quicker than the surrounding air.
“It seems like we have pretty nice weather,” said Sue Stanic. Stanic has managed Mostly Chocolates in Rapid City for 24 years. “We can get a blizzard and in a couple of hours it’s all melting,” Stanic said. Towns to the west and north like Deadwood “can get a lot more snow then we do. It seems to be colder (too),” Stanic said.
Dye said the “Banana Belt” term may be best applied to the precipitation and winds that Rapid City and other foothills areas get.
A downslope wind in the foothills can mean less snow in Rapid City while Deadwood or Lead my get a lot of snow, Dye said.
An upslope wind “in the (Black Hills) aids in snow production…,” Mundt said.
Here’s how Visit Rapid City describes the “Banana Belt” in the Black Hills “These mountains create (1) A natural barrier to shelter the Rapid City region from the harshest of winter weather, (2) and a downward slope that captures warm Chinook winds known for quick and temperature changes that can warm up cold winter days.”
The Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce also refers to “Banana Belt” weather on its website. “Hot Springs is widely considered the “Banana Belt” of the Black Hills, with a micro-climate separate from the rest of the Black Hills, providing comparatively mild winters and warm summer days and cool summer nights with low humidity.”
On Nov. 7 the temperature changes in Rapid City from roughly an hour to several hours help to illustrate the phrase “Banana Belt.”
Dye said the temperature in Rapid City was 42 degrees at 7 a.m. The temperature jumped to 55 by 7:20 a.m. and 57 by 8 a.m., he said.
Visit Rapid City is calling attention to it during the winter.
World Atlas shares a reason why cities pay attention to “Banana Belts.” “Due to the absence of snow during the winter, banana belts make a great location to conduct outdoor activities during the cold winter months,” according to World Atlas