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Wet finish to 2019

Soil moisture remains high

Open water on the Souris River in early January is an unusual occurrence, due a combination of warm temperatures and slight flow. Note the lack of snow cover. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

There was no shortage of precipitation in the Minot area in 2019. Much of it came late in the year, leaving very wet soil conditions throughout the region from harvest time to freezeup.

Minot’s average yearly precipitation, both from rain and snow, is 19.19 inches according to 114 years of data compiled by the National Weather Service. In 2019 the final tally of precipitation for the year was 23.64 inches which is the seventh-highest total in recorded history.

How much of that moisture will still be in the ground during the spring runoff and planting seasons remains to be seen, but it is likely that soil moisture will not be lacking during the first half of 2020. Wet ground in the first half of the year can be both good and bad.

While ample soil moisture is desired during the planting season to help assure the germination of seeds, too much moisture can cause problems getting planting equipment into fields. There’s another concern, too, one that has ramifications well beyond the farming community.

If soils are saturated during the spring melt it raises the possibility of the increased risk of flooding in many areas, especially if the ground is frozen and temperatures are such that the melt comes quickly.

Given the soil conditions, the winter has been a favorable one to date in the Minot region which has escaped some of the big snowstorms that have swept through the southern and eastern portions of the state. What snow that did fall in the Minot area in the final months of 2019 has virtually disappeared due to favorable temperatures through the period. Temperatures reaching into the 40’s happened in the first few days of January.

The long-range weather forecast issued in late December by the Climate Prediction Center calls for increased chances of greater than normal precipitation for all of North Dakota through March. While the outlook is considered a general guideline for weather watchers, it remains impossible to predict with any precision the exact path or impact of major weather events such as snowstorms.

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