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Weather experts say warm temps, low precipitation could impact farmers and ranchers

Unseasonably-warm weather and lower precipitation totals throughout southwest North Dakota has researchers questioning what the numbers could mean for farmers and ranchers come spring.

Unseasonably-warm weather and lower precipitation totals throughout southwest North Dakota has researchers questioning what the numbers could mean for farmers and ranchers come spring.
According to the National Weather Service, the Dickinson area has seen below-average precipitation totals for the past three months.
“We are kind of below normal for precipitation for the winter months,” said Patrick Ayd, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Bismarck, “and the current outlooks favor us for above-normal temps across western North Dakota.”
While precipitation has been slightly above average for the first week of February, the lack of a snowpack throughout the region has climatologists slightly concerned that soil moisture and temperatures could be negatively impacted if things don’t change.
“The thing that concerns me is the lack of snow cover,” said Adnan Akyuz, a climatologist with North Dakota State University.
While residents of southwest North Dakota have enjoyed mild weather throughout most of the winter, Akyuz said those temperatures could be detrimental to farmers and ranchers come spring.
Akyuz said it is too early to panic, but he said if the region doesn’t receive a snow pack, which reflects sunlight and reduces soil temperatures, it could impact the spring growing season.
He said the region may have received rain during recent weeks, but most of that precipitation resulted in runoff into streams and ponds instead of being retained in the soil.
“This year is highly unusual,” said Akyuz, who has worked in the state since 2007, adding that you don’t have to be from North Dakota to know that 40-degree temperatures in January and February are abnormal.
While land throughout the region has decent moisture levels due to precipitation last fall, Akyuz said plant and crop germination could be harmed if the region doesn’t get rain this spring.
“We are going to have above-normal temperatures during the growing season,” Akyuz said. “If the rainfall does not follow, the soil moisture is going to be depleted very quickly.”
Akyuz said all of this is hypothetical at this point and that the outlook for the coming growing season will be decided in the coming months.
Over the long term, Akyuz said much of southwest North Dakota, including Billings, Slope, Bowman and Golden Valley counties, is experiencing a slight deficit in precipitation.
But again, Akyuz said there is no reason to be concerned at this point.

Brown is a regional reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact him at 701-456-1206 and follow him on Twitter at Andy_Ed_Brown.

Related Topics: WEATHERAGRICULTUREDICKINSON
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