10th driest year 45 inches of snow needed to replenish moisture
The dry conditions of 2017 in Jamestown are making the record books, according to Allen Schlag, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
“The (North Dakota) State Hospital records go back to 1893,” he said. “In general, as measured at the State Hospital, this is the 10th driest year on record.”
The North Dakota State Hospital and Jamestown Regional Airport report weather conditions to the National Weather Service. The State Hospital has reported weather for the longest time and its records are used for comparison.
So far in 2017, the North Dakota State Hospital has recorded 12.56 inches of precipitation.
This compares to the driest year on record, 1936, when the State Hospital recorded 6.9 inches of precipitation.
To get moisture levels back to normal is going to take a great amount of snow, Schlag said.
“It is going to take a lot of water in the next two and a half months to take the edge off the drought,” he said. “Something like a minimum of 45 inches of snow.”
That amount of snow would produce between 2 and 3 inches of moisture, Schlag said.
When that snow melts in the spring some will soak into the ground while other moisture will run into the region’s streams and potholes.
“That is a lot of snow we need before the beginning of March,” Schlag said.
Schlag said the current forecast from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center calls for North Dakota to have a slightly above normal chance to be wetter than normal for December, January and February.
So far in December, Jamestown has been drier than normal with precipitation of 0.01 inches compared to a normal of 0.15 inches
Dry conditions this year were mitigated by the amount of snow the region received last winter.
That snow melted slowly with almost all the moisture soaking into the ground, Schlag said.
“The soil moisture was well above normal going into March and April which were dry,” he said. “From the middle to end of May, things started to get really dry. For May, June and about three-quarters of July, things stayed dry. It didn’t take long to deplete the soil moisture.”
Schlag said replenishing soil and surface moisture could be important for next year’s crops.
“The key message is that the next two and a half months could make or break next year’s crops,” he said. “If you are an ag producer, you’re looking for a fair bit of snow in the next couple of months.”