Since May of last year, at least part of Stutsman County has been classified as abnormally dry on the maps issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
It will likely be April or May of this year before there’s a chance to receive enough moisture to change that classification, according to Daryl Ritchison, interim director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network.
Ritchison said winters in North Dakota don’t usually bring much precipitation. This means that if storms bring more moisture than normal, it still isn’t enough to break a drought.
“In theory, the drought monitor doesn’t change much in the winter,” he said.
The short-term forecast also looks dry, according to Adam Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
“We got a big fat nothing coming our way,” he said. “There is not any good news when it comes to precipitation for the next 10 days or so.”
Help could come in the extended forecast.
“It is from late April into May that we see the best chance of catching up,” Ritchison said. “The average amount of precipitation increases at that time so there is a potential for more precipitation if we have storms or heavy rains. At that point, one extra storm could get us above average.”
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center shows an equal chance of above normal or below normal temperatures for March, April and May. The same forecast shows an above normal chance of above normal precipitation for those months.
Ritchison said a cooler spring could prove frustrating but would allow more moisture to soak into the soil.
The National Center for Environmental Information ranked 2017 as the eighth driest in North Dakota history. The same organization ranked the year as the 16th warmest.
NCEI ranked 2017 as the third warmest globally since it began calculating global average temperatures in 1880.