The snowstorm that heading across the Dakotas today might be the beginning of a welcome shift in the weather pattern.
Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota climatologist, says that the "the other shoe may drop" in March and bring an end to the dry, quiet weather pattern that has been over the Upper Midwest this winter.
A change jet stream position will bring more low pressure areas with rain or snow across the region. While that may mean some March snowstorms, a change in the pattern is mostly good news since eastern the Dakotas and Minnesota are in a severe drought.
Sioux Falls, S.D., had only 3.64 inches of rain between Aug. 1 and Jan. 1. That is 6.96 inches below normal.
Last fall and early winter was the third driest period in Sioux Falls since records started being kept, Seeley says
Brooking, S.D., is down 7.06 inches of precipitation from normal for the same period, which is the second driest in the city's history.
Clear Lake, S.D., is having its third driest winter on record.
Seeley, who spoke in Sioux Falls at the I-29 Corridor Dairy Conference, says that weather data clearly shows that the climate in the Upper Midwest has changed.
Minimum temperatures are significantly higher across the whole region. More precipitation is coming in heavy thunderstorms than in gentle region-wide rains. There has been significantly more hail. Dew points are way up. There are more summer days with dangerous combination of heat and humidity that can kill livestock. Last year, summer heat index hit a record high over the Dakotas and Minnesota as an air mass from the equator made its way north.
"It was hotter here than in the Iraq," Seeley says.
The change in the climate also can be seen in the National Weather Service's latest update of what constitutes "normal" precipitation and temperatures. The normal annual precipitation for Brookings used to be 18 inches. The new normal recently issued by NWS is more than 24 inches, a 30% increase since 1951, Seeley says.
Generally, the data shows that spring and fall seasons have become wetter than they used to be. Winter and summer precipitation and temperatures are mixed.
"The data is clear," Seeley says. "We have no recourse, but to believe we are in a different climate."