Great Plains Weather: Land of Extremes
Thunderstorms, blizzards, and inclement weather can strike quickly and with little warning on the Great Plains.
Thunderstorms & Wind
uring the summer, the sun heats the ground and causes powerful convection over the Great Plains. Air convection builds cumulus nimbus clouds, which may reach an altitude of 50,000 feet or more, can produce baseball-size hail, spawn tornados, and typically generate winds of 40 mph or greater.
Wind is the one great constant in Great Plains' weather. A windless day is a rarity; and winds of 20 mph or more are quite common.
Temperature: Averages & Extremes
T he climate of the northern Great Plains is controlled by its position in the interior of the North American continent. Because the area is far removed from any coastlines, it has a semiarid climate with highly variable temperatures. Weeks of sub-zero temperature can blanket the area in an icy grip when polar air masses descend to the Great Plains. The record low temperature is -47°F in Hettinger, ND on January 13, 1916. In the summer, the sun warms the dry air
Precipitation: Averages & Extremes
T he Grand River National Grassland averages 15-18 inches of precipitation each year. Most of the precipitation occurs in the spring and early summer. The wettest year on record was 1982, when 24 inches of precipitation fell in Lemmon, SD and 27 inches in Hettinger, ND. In contrast, only 4.17 inches fell in 1936 in Hettinger, the driest year on record locally. Much of the annual precipitation might occur in a single storm, or in a handful of powerful summer thunderstorms. The highest single-day rainfall event on record occurred on August 12, 1999, when 5.04 inches of rain fell in Lemmon.
Drough is a powerful force of nature and is a common occurrence on the Great Plains. Historic records indicate that severe, multi-year droughts occur on roughly a 20-year period. The most severe drought on record is the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s. Drought conditions and high winds across the Great Plains produced dust storms in 1934 that are unmatched in the record of U.S. history.
Erected by US Forest Service, Department of Agriculture.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Environment. A significant historical date for this entry is January 13, 1916.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Welcome to the Grand River National Grassland (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Public Land Surveying (approx. 0.2 miles away); From Bison to Cattle (approx. 0.2 miles away); Hugh Glass - Adventurer (approx. 3.9 miles away); Hugh Glass (approx. 4.3 miles away); Shadehill Dam & Reservoir (approx. 4.3 miles away); a different marker also named Hugh Glass (approx. 4.3 miles away); Seim, South Dakota (approx. 4.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Shadehill.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 6, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 4, 2021, by Connor Olson of Lemmon, South Dakota. This page has been viewed 29 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 4, 2021, by Connor Olson of Lemmon, South Dakota. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.