Winter snows may mark end to drought cycleThe snow area residents have been shoveling over the past weeks may herald a change in weather patterns and an end to the drought of last summer, according to Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist.
By: By Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The snow area residents have been shoveling over the past weeks may herald a change in weather patterns and an end to the drought of last summer, according to Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist.
“Since Oct. 2, drought conditions have been improving,” he said. “There are some indications the spring weather could make farmers happy.”
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center indicated “some improvement” for much of North Dakota when it issued its seasonal drought outlook map on Thursday. The map indicates weather tendencies through May 31 and includes southern and eastern North Dakota along with eastern and northern South Dakota with improving conditions. Northwestern North Dakota and northern Montana are not part of the drought area.
The category of some improvement in the drought outlook map indicates the drought is still ongoing but not as severe as it was before.
An area including southwestern South Dakota, south to the tip of Texas and west to California and Oregon is anticipated to remain in a persistent drought this spring. The forecast for this area indicates the drought should remain or intensify from previous levels.
Akyuz said eastern North Dakota is already seeing moisture amounts that would indicate a break from dry conditions.
“Fargo is well ahead of last year and slightly ahead of normal for fall and winter precipitation,” he said.
The Jamestown area has less reporting stations and the moisture trends are not as well documented. One of the reporting stations is at Pipestem Dam.
“A grassy area near the offices has an average of about 10.8 inches of snow,” said Bob Martin, dam manager for the U.S. Corps of Engineers. “The water equivalent is at 1.79 inches of moisture now.”
Martin said that was an increase of 0.64 inches in the last two weeks.
“It is still down from the wet winters of 2009 and 2010,” he said. “But there is a band between Jamestown and Carrington where there are indications that there is 2 to 3 inches of moisture in the snow.”
Snow measurements between Jamestown and Carrington were taken with specially equipped aircraft flying surveys for the National Weather Service.
While the amount of moisture in the snowpack that soaks into the ground is dependent on the conditions of the spring melt, Akyuz anticipates enough moisture will remain in the soil to get crops started.
“Each spring is a brand new season,” he said. “Snow melt, especially on level ground, sits on the surface until the frost goes out and it can soak in. That is usually enough to get crops started and then they rely on the spring rains.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com