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Sioux City’s snowfall sits at 20 inches below average this season

Sioux City residents tube down Cone Park's hill. Early spring temperatures closed the winter attraction down early.
Courtesy of City of Sioux City Twitter
Sioux City residents tube down Cone Park's hill. The park makes its own snow, but early spring temperatures closed the winter attraction down early.

Sioux City had one of its least snowiest winters on record this year.

Since December, a little under 4 inches of snow has fallen in Sioux City – making it around 20 inches below average for the season. That’s the third lowest snowfall the western Iowa city has seen since the late 1800s.

State climatologist Justin Glisan said the northwest region as whole saw an abnormally low amount of snowfall. He said while there’s still hope for some snowfall in the next couple of months, rain will be more likely. Throughout the years, the region has gradually seen less major snowfalls in March and April.

“We're transitioning from, with a warmer atmosphere, a higher likelihood to have increased rainfalls in March and April as opposed to those snowfall events,” he said.

The lack of snowpack led to a slightly warmer winter for Sioux City, about one degree above its average of 18 degrees. Mike Gillispie, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, said the dry winter also means farmers will have to depend on spring precipitation for moisture.

“Hopefully as we get into that April to May time period, whether it's rain or snow at this point doesn't really matter, we just need some water,” he said.

Northwest Iowa field agronomist Joel DeJong said, luckily, the region’s soil moisture storage is in better shape than last year. Winters are typically the driest season, so the lack of snow melt won’t have a devastating impact, he said.

 The graph shows that the precipitation for the month of February in Sioux City was significantly lower than its average amount.
IEM
The graph shows that the precipitation for the month of February in Sioux City was significantly lower than its average amount.

“If there's a time of year for crop producers to have a drought it's the middle of winter,” DeJong said.

DeJong measured the region’s soil moisture levels in November. He said he found the soil is holding 6 to 10 inches of water from fall precipitation – meaning northwest Iowa will only need around 10 to 15 inches of rainfall throughout the growing season.

Still, lack of snow on the ground can have a negative impact. Without snow cover, soil is left exposed to cold air and can freeze at deeper depths.

“One of the things that does happen when you don't have snow on the ground, the soil is able to dry because it’s exposed to the air,” said Dennis Todey, director of the Midwest Climate Hub. “So, the lack of much precipitation is not great, but it's not terrible either.”

Glisan said decreased snowfall was a trend across the state. Northeast Iowa got 10 inches less snowfall than its average amount. Southeast Iowa saw the most amount of snow, with just near average snowfall.

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Kendall was Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA until Jan. 20, 2023.