Despite Snow, Climate Watchers Keep Close Eye on MN Drought Patterns
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Snow is on the ground in much of Minnesota, but the state is coming off another warm season with notable drought conditions.
Those who monitor precipitation said there are some glimmers of hope, while acknowledging concerns. 2021 brought the worst drought Minnesota had seen in recent memory, and this year, dry patterns were seen over the summer and going into the fall.
Brad Pugh, meteorologist at the Climate Prediction Center, said while the western U.S. has been dealing with a multiyear drought, problems are beginning to fester a little more in the central part of the country, creating many ripple effects.
"Short-term drought impacts are typically tied into agriculture; depletion of soil moisture. There's also increased wildfire danger for some parts of the country," Pugh explained. "It's just stressing water resources in general."
The Center's precipitation outlook for the next few months predicts a wetter period for the Upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes regions. He noted if it pans out, melting snow next spring could help recharge the soil.
In Minnesota, the same scenario happened earlier this year when a soggy spring erased most drought conditions across the state. Still, Pugh emphasized it is important to stay on top of recent dry patterns to see how climate change is affecting this part of the country, especially if Minnesota does not get as much snow as anticipated.
"If precipitation this winter, in the form of snowfall, doesn't occur [or] is not adequate enough, that certainly would be a major concern as we head into next spring," Pugh added.
Not only would it present challenges to farmers for the planting season, but a dry spring could also pave the way for more stress on Minnesota's lakes. Recently, the Department of Natural Resources asked residents in extreme drought areas to take water-conservation measures, noting 11 watersheds in the state were either in Drought Warning or Watch phase.
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