Climate and monthly weather forecast
South Dakota, USA

Flag of South Dakota, USA
Flag of South Dakota, USA

The climate of South Dakota

South Dakota has a temperate continental type of climate with warm and moderately humid summers and dry and cold winters. Nebraska to the south, Wyoming to the west, Montana to the northwest, North Dakota to the north, Minnesota to the east, and Iowa to the southeast share borders with the landlocked state. South Dakota, the Coyote state, is part of the American Midwest and lies in the Great Plains region, the land of many Indian reservations.

The Missouri River divides South Dakota into the distinct western and eastern parts called West River and East River. The Black Hills in the western part display a different climate subtype due to the unique geography - the mountains receive a high level of precipitation and have various species of pines such as the lodgepole and ponderosa. The majority of South Dakota is a temperate grassland prairie with hills, ravines, and flat-topped elevations occupying the rest - however, elms, willows, larches, and cottonwoods are common near the riverbeds. The western portion is semi-arid in places where the terrain is uneven and consists of badlands. The eastern part receives more rainfall than the western one and has few mountains of towering heights.

South Dakota summers range from warm to hot with the average high temperature of 80°F (26.7°C) to 90°F (32.2°C) in the peak of July whereas nights cool down quickly to register average temperatures of 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C). Many days cross 100°F (37.8°C), particularly in the semi-arid western belts during severe hot and dry spells. Winters are severely cold in January when the average high temperatures are below freezing, while average low temperatures drop to 10°F (-12.2°C) in the majority of the state. Late spring and early summer bring moderate rainfall as South Dakota records average precipitation of 20" (508mm) during the year: the southeastern regions receive 25" (635mm), while the Black Hills see more than 30" (762mm) of annual rain. Snowfall in the mountain ranges is more than 100" (2540mm), while the plains regularly experience snow during the winter.

South Dakota is prone to thunderstorms and tornadoes, mainly in the southeastern part of the state that lies in the Tornado Alley of the country, during late spring and early summer. Winds blow at breakneck speeds across the great plains that are devoid of the high mountain ranges that lie westwards. Usta holds the record of the highest ever temperature of 120°F (48.9°C) on July 15, 2006, in South Dakota, while McIntosh recorded the coldest temperature of -54°F (-47.8°C) on February 17, 1936.

The best time to visit South Dakota

The best time to visit South Dakota is usually from late spring to autumn, particularly from May to October.
Summer is typically the peak tourist season, but late spring and autumn are generally better regarding accommodation and fewer crowds. June to August tends to have hot, dry, and humid days with the mercury often close to 90°F (32.2°C).
Late spring and early summer are prone to rain and thunderstorms, while autumn sees a reduction in storms and cooler temperatures than the summer. The fall season has pleasant weather with reduced humidity and rainfall.
Summers swell with tourists eager to visit Mount Rushmore and the state and national parks.

The worst time to visit South Dakota

Winter is the worst time to visit South Dakota, with severe weather that often sees days and nights below freezing temperatures.
The majority of the state sees a substantial amount of snow, and mountains have deep snow packs. Wind Cave national park receives 41" (1041mm) of snow, while Mount Rushmore records 52" (1321mm) - it is a better idea to visit these places during the warm seasons than the biting cold of winter.
Local attractions draw some visitors to South Dakota during the winter, but the season registers significantly low tourist numbers compared to the summer.

Weather hazards

South Dakota is vulnerable to wildfires, thunderstorms, and tornadoes in late spring and early summer.
Wildfires are generally common in the dry and hot summer as the hills have many lodgepole and ponderosa forests, which are particularly susceptible to dry conditions. Southeastern parts of South Dakota see more thunderstorms and tornadoes - the state experiences around 30 tornadoes per year of various intensities that are mostly short of high-risk categories. Winters are prone to ice storms and blizzards.

Weather in January

January is by far the coldest month of the year in South Dakota, with the average low temperatures dropping to 2°F (-16.7°C) in the eastern regions - nights routinely go below the low temperatures in many places. Central and western South Dakota is in the frigid 6°F (-14.4°C) to 41°F (5°C) average range with short days and reduced daily sunshine. Weather in January »

Weather in February

February is a chilly winter month in South Dakota as the landscape wrestles with the cold conditions. Nights are severely cold, and the entire state registers low freezing temperatures. The sunshine is usually weak and lasts for short periods in the dry and cold conditions. Weather in February »

Weather in March

March is cold at the start of the spring season in South Dakota. It is a little damp with 1" (25mm) to 1.5" (38mm) of rain - the eastern part of the state receives more rain than the west. Average temperatures are between 20°F (-6.7°C) to 53°F (11.7°C) with western South Dakota warmer than the eastern portion. Weather in March »

Weather in April

April sees the advent of spring in entire South Dakota and mild day temperatures. Day temperatures are usually in the warm 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), while nights rise above freezing and are in the 32°F (0°C) to 35°F (1.7°C) across the state. Weather in April »

Weather in May

May is beautiful, with many sunny days in South Dakota as the land blooms with tulips, and the birds sing songs of joy. Average high temperatures are in the warm 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the comfortable 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C). Snowfall tapers down by May, and most of the mountain trails are open for the tourist season. Weather in May »

Weather in June

June has pleasant summer temperatures in South Dakota that see tourists in droves visit its parks, wildlife, and American Indian historical monuments. Average high temperatures are in a temperate 60°F (15.6°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range, while average low temperatures are comfortable between 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C). June is rainy as most of the state register 4" (102mm) - it is moderately humid, and daylight lasts almost 15 hours with an average of 20 sunny days. Yankton in the east has average temperatures in the 57°F (13.9°C) to 82°F (27.8°C), while Mount Rushmore in the west is between 51°F (10.6°C) to 71°F (21.7°C) - no wonder it is full of enthusiastic visitors. South Dakota summers are vulnerable to thunderstorms and tornadoes - keep in mind that the southeastern part of the state lies in the Tornado Alley of the country. The weather is beautiful and suitable for swimming in the rivers and lakes. Weather in June »

Weather in July

July is the hottest month of the year in South Dakota as the average temperatures in the state are in the range of 85°F (29.4°C) to 90°F (32.2°C). Several days and places cross the 100°F (37.8°C) mark as it becomes hot and humid. Weather in July »

Weather in August

August is a beautiful summer month in South Dakota that sees moderately warm temperatures and brilliant sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the 75°F (23.9°C) to 85°F (29.4°C) range, while the average low temperatures are between 55°F (12.8°C) and 60°F (15.6°C). Rain is to the tune of 2" (51mm) to 3" (76mm) in the majority of the state. Weather in August »

Weather in September

September begins the beautiful autumn season of South Dakota with its green prairie, forests, riversides, and mountains sprinkled in various shades of yellow, orange, red, and golden colors. The temperatures are moderate, and the average is between 45°F (7.2°C) to 75°F (23.9°C). Weather in September »

Weather in October

October is in the middle of the autumn season in South Dakota, with mild temperatures and unpredictable weather. The average high temperatures are between 55°F (12.8°C) to 62°F (16.7°C), while the average low temperatures are in 32°F (0°C) and 40°F (4.4°C) span. Rainfall is less in October as snowfall replaces the rain most of the time. Weather in October »

Weather in November

November is the end of the beautiful autumn season in South Dakota that sees a sizeable drop in temperatures in the state. Average high temperatures are in the 40°F (4.4°C) to 50°F (10°C), while average low temperatures are below freezing and range in between 18°F (-7.8°C) to 27°F (-2.8°C). Weather in November »

Weather in December

December is a cold winter month with moderate snowfall as average high temperatures are in the 25°F (-3.9°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) range and the average low temperatures are in the freezing 5°F (-15°C) to 19°F (-7.2°C) range across the state. The majority of the state sees 5" (127mm) to 10" (254mm) of snow, while Lead in the Black Hills accumulates 27" (686mm). Weather in December »
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