Heavy snow eases drought slightly in western MN; More snow next week?

Chipping Away at Drought

The weather pattern has changed for the wetter, and for the better in Minnesota.

The weather maps look different than during our prolonged dry spell last year. The jet stream is snaking overhead more often, and more frequent storms are the result.

7 snow systems in the first 13 days of February?

They might have locked me up had I predicted it a month in advance. Still, when you look at weather maps every day for a living, you can sometimes see subtle shifts as they begin to happen. El Nino? AO & NAO? “Sudden stratospheric warming?” They help us see trends.

But there’s no substitute for watching the weather maps…even the sky every day. It’s what I love most about my life and chosen weather career. I’d do it anyway if they didn’t pay me. (Please don’t tell my MPR managers!)

My weather “Spidey senses” continue to point toward a wetter trend…and the hope for continued above average precipitation as we head toward spring 2013.

Is weather forecasting a science? Absolutely. And a little bit of art too.

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The 7th snowfall this month decorates the Weather Lab Thursday.

Image: Paul Huttner – MPR News

Flipping the switch: Wetter pattern may signal the end of “meteorological drought”

Earlier this week I talked about the different kinds of “drought.”

Frozen soils mean there is no doubt that Minnesota’s “Agricultural Drought” is with us until the ground thaws this spring. Any snow or rain cannot penetrate the frosty soils and icy top layers until the melt.

But our recent parade of snows is putting a dent in the “hydrologic drought” in parts of Minnesota.

Sunday’s storm dumped 21″ of wet snow in Rothsay, and more importantly 2.21″ of liquid.

There is now 4″ to 6″+ of water content (snow water equivalent) in the snow pack in western & northern Minnesota. Sunday’s storm dumped a month’s worth of snow & water between Alex & Fargo in west-central Minnesota. Additional storms will add to the snowpack before the big melt.

This week’s updated U.S. Drought Monitor shows subtle improvement in “hydrological drought” from heavy snows in western Minnesota between Alexandria and Fargo.

The percentage of “severe” or higher drought in Minnesota dropped from 83.59% to 69.79% this week. Basically that means a chunk of western Minnesota improved one category in drought designation due to recent snows.

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MPR & UM climate specialist Dr. Mark Seeley expands on the subtle but important changes in this preview of this week’s Weather Talk.

As a result of the frequent snows the U.S. Drought Monitor changed some western and northern Minnesota counties from severe drought to moderate drought this week, the first substantial change in drought status in several weeks. The snow pack on the landscape is estimated to have as much as 2-4 inches of liquid water equivalent stored in it. The accumulated moisture surplus this month should help with surface hydrology (runoff flowing into lakes and streams), but will likely provide little help for soil moisture recharge as long as the ground is frozen.

All that water will run into lake & rivers and help boost levels this spring.

But ironically, if we get enough additional snow…and a quick warm up with rain this spring on snowpack and frozen ground…we could be in the odd situation of having a “hydrologic flood” on top of an “agricultural drought.”

One thing is for sure. With winter snowfall and moisture above normal in much of Minnesota, and 7 storms in the first 13 days of February, our “meteorological drought” is easing for now.

NOAA’s CPC outlooks favor above average snow & rain right through spring.

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Both the GFS & Euro models suggest another potential winter storm for Minnesota next Thursday & Friday.

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Let’s hope so.

Now all we need is more snow to boost river & lakes, a nice slow warm up until the thaw so we don’t flood, and much above average rainfall once the ground thaws to soak into parched soils.

Not too much to ask for… right?


  • Joe

    You forgot possibly getting a day off of school! Teachers enjoy those:)