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Published November 05, 2012, 10:23 AM

October rains a mixed bag

Though October rains helped some parts of the Upper Midwest begin to rebuild badly needed soil moisture, much more precipitation is needed, area weather and agricultural officials say.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Though October rains helped some parts of the Upper Midwest begin to rebuild badly needed soil moisture, much more precipitation is needed, area weather and agricultural officials say.

“It’s a start,” says Dennis Todey, South Dakota state climatologist. “But we’re still going to need considerable precipitation next spring.”

Todey and others point out that average amounts of moisture won’t end the region’s drought

“If you’re going to try to recover from a drought, you have to have more than average precipitation. If you just receive normal, you’ll persist in the drought,” says Paul Nutter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Mont.

Some areas of western and north-central Montana received above-average moisture in October, he says. For instance, about twice the normal amount of moisture fell in Havre, while Chateau received triple its normal precipitation.

But in other parts of the state, particularly southwest and eastern Montana, only 40 to 60 percent of normal precipitation fell through the first two-thirds of October, he says.

Only a few counties in northeast South Dakota received above-average rains in October, Todey says. Even in those counties, fields remain dry, he notes, pointing to an anecdotal report that one farmer in northeast South Dakota shut down harvest only briefly after receiving 4 inches of rain. In a normal year, so much rain would have forced a much longer shut down.

Precipitation this fall has varied across Minnesota, too.

In Minnesota’s Morrison County, in the central part of the state, only about half an inch fell in the second half of October, says Dan Martens, extension agent.

The moisture “settled the dust” and made fall tillage easier, but far more precipitation is needed to rebuild soil moisture, he says.

Rain ‘sinking in’

Cando, N.D., received 3 inches of rain through late October, triple the normal amount.

Rain was falling again in late October when Agweek talked with Mike Johnston, a Cando farmer.

“I look at the rain now, it’s not pooling. It looks like it’s all sinking in (the ground). So we’ll take this,” he says.

Here’s a sampling of area rainfall totals, moving from west to east, through late October. From the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network:

•Sidney, Mont. — 1.8 inches, compared with the normal 0.8 inches for the period.

•Hettinger, N.D. — 0.46 inches, compared with the normal 1.11 inches for the period.

•Mandan, N.D. — 0.84 inches, compared with the normal 1.15 inches.

•Britton, S.D. — 2.56 inches, compared with the normal 1.46 inches.

•Cavalier, N.D. — 4.47 inches, compared with the normal 1.26 inches.

•Ada, Minn. — 2.52 inches, compared with the normal 1.64 inches.

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