A climatologist who’s keeping an eye out for another potential flood in the Missouri River basin says conditions now are nearly the opposite of what they were a year ago. South Dakota state climatologist Dennis Todey says the pattern of warmer, drier weather we’ve enjoyed for weeks appears to be changing.
“We are going to be seeing a shift as January goes on to more La Nina-like conditions where temperatures will turn colder,” Todey says. “By later in January, most of the upper part of the basin will go to below-average temperatures, which will be in contrast to what we’ve seen recently.” So far, he says, none of the conditions that spawned widespread flooding in the region last year are appearing this year.
“For much of the basin, where we have very dry soil conditions in certain areas or moderately dry soil conditions, which allows the soil moisture capacity to take up any additional moisture at this point,” Todey says. “That’s quite a contrast from what we had last year where we had fairly widespread wet soil.”
A year ago, heavy snow accumulation combined with an extremely wet spring to create record flooding on the Missouri. Todey, who is working with the federal government on long-range forecasts, says it simply hasn’t snowed much this winter. “There have been a few snows that have come along,” Todey says. “Most of them have not been long-lived. They’ve melted off, so there is very little snow in the basin.”
He says the weather could still break either way, above- or below-average snow and rain for the remainder of the winter.