Change to winter weather

Dry conditions continue

While eastern portions of North Dakota dealt with a blizzard warning Monday, mostly due to winds pushing to 50 miles per hour or more, more seasonal winter weather eased its way into the Minot region. Gone are the 45 degree daytime highs and overnight lows in the 30’s.

This week’s temperatures are forecast to reach into the 20’s during the day and a bit colder at night. Still, not bad for winter in North Dakota. Actually, the first day of winter doesn’t arrive until Dec. 21 but, the reality is, that’s just a date on the calendar for this portion of the country.

“We’ll be back down to reality the next week and a half,” said April Cooper, National Weather Service meteorologist in Bismarck. “The temps look to be seasonal, which is a change for us.”

Seasonal temperatures are quite pleasant by North Dakota standards, especially if there’s little or no snow to shovel, walk or drive through. Average temperatures for Minot into mid-December are mid-20’s for daytime highs and about 10 degrees above zero for nighttime lows. That, says the National Weather Service, is what is most likely to be the Minot region’s temperature range for the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of hard to tell but, basically, aloft we have a kind of upper level trough of low pressure sitting over southern Canada for a bit,” said Cooper. “We’ll have frequent chances for snow but nothing major. The indicators for the next three or four weeks doesn’t really tell us much, not a climate factor that will push us one way or another.”

So, for much of December, it appears the Minot region will be spared from any sub-zero temperatures or drifting snow. Thus far the effects of a weak La Nina, which can bring colder than usual temperatures to the area, has not had much of an influence on Minot’s weather. More will be known later this month when the Climate Prediction Center issues its monthly long-range outlooks.

While the current lack of snowfall is okay to many who prefer to see their snow shovels and snowblowers remain idle, there is some concern about dry conditions that persist throughout the Minot region and much of western North Dakota. Minot’s precipitation total so far this year is 9.3 inches below normal with a mere 7.55 inches of precipitation for the year recorded at the Minot International Airport. Minot’s yearly average rainfall is slightly more than 17 inches.

“It means we come into wintertime with very dry soils and not a lot of moisture. We are kind of behind the curve,” said Allen Schlag, Bismarck NWS hydrologist. “The thing is, it would not be good to see a continuation of dry conditions through the winter. The effect would be magnified in the spring if it continues. That wouldn’t be good for agriculture, communities, lakes and reservoirs and rivers.”

Usually it is not a question of if snow will fall in the Minot region, but when. Certainly several inches of snow, even a few feet of snow, has the ability to be helpful in replenishing soil moisture, provided the spring melt cooperates.

“If you have a normal spring it is like all things are forgiven,” said Schlag. “If it is a dry spring again in 2018 it will be magnified and the impact will probably be greater than it was this year.”

2017 proved to be one of the driest years on record for much of the state with drought conditions worsening throughout most of the summer.