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A lack of snow cover this winter as shown in a corn stubble field north of Bismarck is an example of the possible continuation of last year's drought in North Dakota. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

Outlook: Drought may continue in parts of ND

BISMARCK—The drought North Dakota experienced in 2017 could continue into 2018, according to Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist and professor of climatological practice at North Dakota State University.

That may be the case, even though the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a greater chance for wetter and colder than normal weather in February and March, he said.

"There is not a huge snowpack in the Plains," said Doug Kluck, a climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, pointing out that, in Montana, snowpack was 2 to 4 inches in depth this week.

As far as drought is concerned, Kluck indicated that western North Dakota will continue to be a problem area as spring runoff will "not be significant enough to remove that drought area."

Even though this winter has had some cold spells, overall conditions up to this point are near normal. However, the season-to-date snow deficit for Bismarck was about 15 inches.

"The lack of snow is concerning in areas scarred by the worst drought to hit North Dakota since 2006," Akyuz said. "While coming into spring, we are as vulnerable as we get."

The U.S. Drought Monitor released data on Thursday that indicted nearly 97 percent of the state is abnormally dry. About 61 percent is still experiencing moderate drought.

The NOAA's estimation of the 2017 drought's economic impact for North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota is $2.5 billion, Akyuz said.

"If last spring repeats, the accumulated impact of drought could result in even higher numbers this year," he said.

Based on his experience and the CPC's past performance, he doesn't think the center's forecast for the spring is reliable enough for North Dakotans to lower their guard against a continuation of the 2017 drought into 2018.

"Therefore, the best mitigation measure is to prepare for it as if it will continue into the 2018 growing season," he said.

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