Breaking a Drought: When is enough, enough

South Dakota Ag ConnectionMay 24, 2023Agriculture News

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Recent rainfall in our area, totaling as much as seven inches in some areas, has brought relief from drought conditions. Meteorologist Matthew Bunkers from the Rapid City National Weather Service explains that the steady and prolonged nature of the rainfall allowed the water to soak into the ground, replenishing creeks, streams, and reservoirs.

He states, “The recent rainfall that we had fell over several days and it wasn’t as intense as, say, a thunderstorm that drops an inch of rain in half an hour. So that more steady rain that we got was really beneficial to soak in and then run off into some of the creeks and streams and even the reservoirs.”

Assessing the Drought

Meteorologist Matthew Bunkers

Three types of drought—hydrological, agricultural, and meteorological—need to be taken into account when assessing drought conditions.

“We look at storage in reservoirs and rivers. We look at how are the crops doing, especially once they get going, and then also just how does the rain compare to normal, so there’s variations,” Bunkers said.

The US Drought Monitor considers short and long-term rainfall deficits as well as agricultural and hydrological impacts. While the recent rainfall has helped alleviate short-term drought concerns, the long-term drought still persists, making it important to maintain above-average precipitation to see further improvements.

Over the past six months, there has been a notable improvement in drought conditions. However, to sustain this progress, above-average precipitation is necessary.

Bunkers emphasizes the critical period ahead, stating, “Our wettest months of the year are later, April and then May and June, and we really start to tail off in July. So this is a really critical period coming up for us.”