South Dakota fire meteorologist analyzes wildfire potential

Percent of normal precipitation, Dec-Feb

South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist Darren Clabo gave a presentation in Rapid City Thursday covering the current fire weather conditions and the potential for the coming months. Below is an excerpt from an article in the Rapid City Journal:

April, May, June and July are typically the region’s wettest months, when the area receives 50 percent of its annual average of 21 inches precipitation. With the exception of the Northern Hills and northeastern South Dakota, most of the state had no appreciable snow pack this winter after a warmer-than-average summer that depleted soil moisture, Clabo said.

“My biggest concern is the southern Black Hills, southwestern South Dakota, down to the Pine Ridge Escarpment,” Clabo said. “I’m concerned about western South Dakota. I’m concerned about the Missouri River Valley.”

Last year, much of the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions saw less than 50 percent of their average rainfall. Temperatures were also 3 to 5 degrees above average.

“2012 was the hottest year on record in North America. That’s extreme,” Clabo said.

And, there are indications that a warm spring and summer are on the horizon, Clabo said.

Although an improvement in drought conditions is predicted, Clabo is less than optimistic about the possibility of any significant drought relief. He points out that most of western South Dakota is in an extreme or severe drought, according to the national Drought Monitor.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.