Will heavy snow help ease “Hydrologic Drought” in some areas?

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Liquid Gold

Some call snow “White Gold.”

The term certainly fits if you run a ski area or a snowplow for a living. My good neighbor and plow guy Howie is making off like a bandit the past 2 weeks plowing my driveway after a slow start to this snow season.

For our rivers and lakes, the deep snowpack that now sits over western & northern Minnesota is more like “Liquid Gold” when it melts this spring.

If you think weather terms are complicated, try talking to a hydrologist sometime.

It turns out there are several types of “drought.” Hydrologic or Agricultural? Short term or long term?

In this edition of Updraft we try and sort out which is which, and how our big weekend snow in parts of Minnesota may have helped eased one type of drought in some areas.

21″ weekend snowfall totals at Rothsay, MN (Wilkin, County)

24″ current snow depth at International Falls

61.5″ season snowfall totals at International Falls so far

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Image: Midwest Regional Climate Center

Prolific snow totals:

Sunday’s storm produced some incredibly prolific snowfall totals the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota.

Check out some selected totals from the Grand Forks NWS.

Snow Totals From February 10, 2013 Storm

THE FOLLOWING ARE SNOW AMOUNTS FOR THE PREVIOUS 2 DAYS AS MEASURED BY NWS COOPERATIVE OBSERVERS…LOCAL EMERAGENCY MANAGERS AND MEDIA MEMBERS. A SWATH OF VERY HEAVY SNOW FELL FROM SOUTHEAST NORTH DAKOTA INTO WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA. THE HIGHEST TOTALS OF 21 INCHES WAS REPORTED IN ROTHSAY…WITH MANY TOTALS OF A FOOT OR MORE.

2-DAY SNOW TOTALS FOR MONDAY (02/11/13)

AS OF 11:55 AM CST

NORTH DAKOTA 2-DAY SNOW FALL

LOCATION (COUNTY): AMT(IN) REPORTS

FAIRMOUNT (RICHLAND)…………………….20.0 (2)

LIDGERWOOD (RICHLAND)……………………15.5 (2)

MCLEOD (RICHLAND)……………………….15.0 (2)

CAYUGA (SARGENT)………………………..14.0 (2)

FORMAN (SARGENT)………………………..13.0 (2)

DURBIN (CASS)…………………………..12.5 (2)

MINNESOTA 2-DAY SNOW FALL

LOCATION (COUNTY): AMT(IN) REPORTS

ROTHSAY (WILKIN)………………………..21.0 (2)

PELICAN RAPIDS 6E (OTTER TAIL)……………17.5 (2)

ELBOW LAKE VILLAGE 8ENE (CLEARWATER)………17.0 (2)

UNDERWOOD 8NNE (OTTER TAIL)………………17.0 (2)

LONG LOST LAKE (CLEARWATER)………………17.0 (2)

BECIDA (HUBBARD)………………………..17.0 (2)

BEMIDJI 6SE (BELTRAMI)…………………..16.0 (2)

ITASCA U OF M (CLEARWATER)……………….16.0 (2)

BRECKENRIDGE 3SE (WILKIN)………………..15.7 (2)

FERGUS FALLS 4E (OTTER TAIL)……………..14.5 (1)

OTTERTAIL (OTTER TAIL)…………………..14.2 (1)

PELICAN RAPIDS (OTTER TAIL)………………14.0 (2)

BLACKDUCK (BELTRAMI)…………………….13.0 (1)

BAGLEY (CLEARWATER)……………………..12.0 (1)

DEER CREEK 2WSW (OTTER TAIL)……………..11.7 (1)

WADENA (WADENA)…………………………11.5 (2)

SABIN (CLAY)……………………………11.2 (2)

NEW YORK MILLS (OTTER TAIL)………………11.0 (2)

TWIN VALLEY (NORMAN)……………………..9.8 (2)

MOORHEAD (CLAY)………………………….9.7 (2)

Northern Minnesota also picked up some respectable snowfall this weekend. Here are some totals from the Duluth NWS.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DULUTH MN

910 AM CST MON FEB 11 2013

THE TOTALS BELOW ARE SEPARATED INTO SNOW…AND ICE AND SLEET

CATEGORIES…THEN BY AMOUNT…AND ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE

FINAL AMOUNT FOR EACH LOCATION.

SNOW REPORTS LISTED BY AMOUNT

INCHES LOCATION ST COUNTY TIME

—— ———————– — ————– ——-

12.00 KETTLE FALLS MN ST. LOUIS 0910 AM

10.50 SILVER BAY MN LAKE 0718 AM

9.60 2 SSW KABETOGAMA MN ST. LOUIS 0718 AM

9.50 CHISHOLM MN ST. LOUIS 1130 PM

7 INCHES AT 627 PM.

9.10 3 WNW GRAND RAPIDS MN ITASCA 0903 AM

8.60 4 S SAWYER MN CARLTON 0756 AM

8.60 NASHWAUK MN ITASCA 0646 AM

8.60 3 E ORR MN ST. LOUIS 0635 AM

8.60 CHISHOLM MN ST. LOUIS 0628 AM

8.60 3 E ORR MN ST. LOUIS 0553 AM

8.50 FORT RIPLEY MN CROW WING 0833 AM

8.50 3 SE FINLAND MN LAKE 0742 AM

WOLF RIDGE ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING CENTER

8.50 HIBBING MN ST. LOUIS 0551 AM

8.50 25 NW GRAND MARAIS MN COOK 0950 PM

8.50 25 NW GRAND MARAIS MN COOK 0950 PM

8.30 6 ESE BOULDER LAKE MN ST. LOUIS 0842 AM

8.10 KEEWATIN MN ITASCA 1026 PM

8.00 BEAVER BAY MN LAKE 0903 AM

8.00 TOGO MN ITASCA 0759 AM

7.70 WEST DULUTH MN ST. LOUIS 0943 PM

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Piling Up:

This weekend’s storm is the last big dump in what’s been a fairly productive winter so far in the northern half of Minnesota.

International Falls has tallied 61.5″ of snowfall so far this winter. That’s +11.3″ vs. average, and a full +32.3″ vas last winter!

There is now 24″ of snow at “The Falls” and snow depth in northern Minnesota is running at or above seasonal averages in many areas.

Check out Monday’s snow depth around Minnesota from NOHRSC.

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Image: NOHRSC

Even more important, is what hydrologists lovingly call “Snow Water Equivalent” or SWE. This is where the rubber meets the road for spring flood and runoff forecasts. SWE tells us how much “water” is stored in the snowpack under our feet.

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As you can see, there is now a good 4″ to 6″+ of water in the snow in western and northern Minnesota. That is like 5″ of rain….hopefully slowly “time released” as we melt into spring in the next 4-8 weeks. Any additional storms will add to that total.

This water will runoff into rivers and lakes, boosting drought dented lake levels and stream flows this spring.

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Image: U.S. Drought Monitor via UNL

Drought: What’s in a name?

All droughts are not created equal. Here are some definitions that seem to capture the differences in different types of “drought.”

Meteorological drought–This type of drought is all about the weather and occurs when there is a prolonged period of below average precipitation, which creates a natural shortage of available water.

Agricultural drought –This type of drought occurs when there isn’t enough moisture to support average crop production on farms or average grass production on range land. Although agricultural drought often occurs during dry, hot periods of low precipitation, it can also occur during periods of average precipitation when soil conditions or agricultural techniques require extra water.

Hydrological drought–This type of drought occurs when water reserves in aquifers, lakes and reservoirs fall below an established statistical average. Again, hydrological drought can happen even during times of average or above average precipitation, if human demand for water is high and increased usage has lowered the water reserves.

Yes, this weekend’s heavy snows (and hopefully more to come) should help ease the “hydrologic” part of the drought.

The “agricultural” or “soils” part of the drought will have to wait until the spring thaw.

We’ll need above average rainfall once the ground thaws in spring to put a dent in Minnesota’s still severe “agricultural” drought.

NOAA’s CPC is still forecasting some improvement in drought conditions in the Upper Midwest this spring.

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Image: NOAA/CPC

My read on the weather maps agrees we should see a wetter pattern in late Feb into early March.

Weather fingers & toes crossed on that one.

PH

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