The frost-free growing season is getting longer, and heavy rainfall events are becoming more common in the northern Great Plains, according to a national climate science report released last week. 

"The National Climate Assessment (NCA) is the third report since 1990 to address climate science in the United States," said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.  
The NCA addresses evidence for climate change, long-term projections of climate through the 21st century, and also impacts of a changing climate across the United States.
Edwards said that changes in our climate have already affected many of us who live in the northern Great Plains.
"We have already seen trends in rising temperature in South Dakota, particularly in the winter season," Edwards said. "The report also confirms the increases in precipitation that we have seen across the Dakotas in recent decades."
This trend towards a wetter climate has been a factor in increased flooding across the region, as has been experienced in the James River Valley in the last 10 to 20 years, as well as general increases in standing surface water. In addition to being wetter overall, Edwards added that there has been an increase in heavy rainfall events, by almost 30 percent, in the northern Great Plains.
Dennis Todey, SDSU Extension and State Climatologist, adds that there are impacts to agriculture, water supply, energy, urban, rural and tribal communities and others that are outlined in the report.
"In agriculture and horticulture, for example, the frost-free season is now about 10 days longer than it was about 50-100 years ago, and is projected to be 10-30 days longer by the end of the century," Todey said. "This might actually be a positive, not a negative impact, in South Dakota."
Todey said other impacts due to a changing climate include increased risk of heat and drought during the summer season, which could stress agriculture and water supplies. The combination of warmer temperatures and increased rainfall may also change weed and pest pressures in agriculture. Livestock may potentially face risk from increased heat stress.
Todey and Edwards agree that there are both positive and negative impacts of a changing climate in South Dakota. There are some opportunities for South Dakotans' to capitalize on what these changes mean for agriculture, water, energy, and communities, to improve productivity and create ways to become more resilient to changes in climate.