Have you ever wondered: Why is the weather in South Dakota so erratic?

Published: May. 16, 2017 at 12:49 PM CDT
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The midwest can be one of the most beautiful places in the United States. But as many of us have experienced, that beauty can change in a matter of hours and sometimes minutes. Part of that is because of where we're located.

"We're kind of in the middle of the continent, so we can get warm, moist air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico, but we can also get very cold dry air come down from Canada." said Laura Edwards, a climatologist at South Dakota State University. "The reason why it changes quickly is because we can get very strong cold fronts."

A cold front is when there's a rapid change from warm to colder temperatures. For example, when someone is in a space at room temperature and they open a refrigerator door, it quickly gets cold. The door is acting as a cold front that pushes the warm air up. If warm air rises fast enough, that's how our area can get severe thunder storms. Cold fronts can have a larger impact here than other places in the country.

"We get just the right amount of gulf moisture, and moisture is the other important ingredient you need with storms," said KSFY's meteorologist Shawn Cable. "So when a cold front comes blasting through, that really plugs into a lot of moisture and gives us the potential for strong storms. We do have a wide variety of weather here, and the thing I love about this place is that it changes because I've had days where I've had tornado warnings and blizzard warnings in our viewing area at the same time."

The wind can also have a strong impact on what people can expect from the weather.

"If you watch, the windy days are ones where you see a strong change the next day," explained Edwards. "You'll see very cold air come down from Canada. Or if you have really strong winds in the south, then you'll see really warm temperatures the next day."

The midwest doesn't have many trees or mountains to change the weather pattern, so we can get winds that come up from Texas or some that come down from Canada. So we're stuck with this erratic weather. Or to some, not stuck, just lucky that if you don't like the weather one day, it's probably going to be different the next.