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Extreme winds often are the norm in the northern Plains

Blowing dirt during June highlighted the gusty winds and gave people a visual, said Daryl Ritchison, a meteorologist and North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network director.

Dirt from an unplanted field is in the air on a windy day.
One of the reasons that June 2022 has seemed windier than normal is because there has been blowing dirt in fields that weren't planted, creating a visual. This photo was taken June 18, 2022, in southwest Grand Forks County.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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June 2022 has been windy in the northern Plains, but whether it’s been exceptionally so is a matter of perception, a meteorologist said.

“Wind statistics get very difficult to measure. If you’re going to just do average wind speed, it wouldn't be very high," said Daryl Ritchison, a meteorologist and North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network director. “If you looked into straight, average wind speed, it wouldn’t stick out.”

There’s no doubt , though, that during the past 18 months, days with high wind gusts have been more frequent than that same period in other years. Bu,t overall, the average wind speed has been only slightly higher than the long-term average.

Meanwhile, average wind speeds aren't the same as moderate wind speeds. Wind speeds during June varied from near calm on clear evenings to more than 60 mph blasts during severe thunderstorms

“What is average? Average is kind of the middle of the extremes,” Ritchison said.

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Days with severe weather conditions, such as gusty winds, are to be expected in the northern Plains, he said.

“We live in a highly dynamic climate. We’re in the mid-latitudes. We get down to 40 below in the winter and 100 above in the summertime,” Ritchison said “We’re in the land of extremes.

“When you live in a windy location and step it up a notch, it’s even more noticeable,” he said

The blowing dirt last month highlighted the wind, which gave people a visual.

“Why the wind seems worse is more exposed soil,” Ritchison said. “Had the plants been at a more average growth, they would have been high enough that the wind wouldn't have been as noticeable with blowing soil.”

June 18, 2022, when the wind gusts reached more than 50 mph in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, was the dirtiest day of the month.

“That day the soil erosion was extremely noticeable. I was driving and the visibility dropped to about one-eighth mile,” Ritchison said.

The fields he drove by had standing water on parts of them and prevented planting acres on other parts, which illustrates that the excessively wet spring contributed to the soil erosion.

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“The lack of plants added to it,” he said.

Besides the fields that were bare of foliage, there are many in which crops were seeded later than normal, so were at a growth stage in June that was more typical of May.

There may be a respite from the wind in July and August.

Typically, there are fewer windy days in July and August, said John Wheeler, WDAY chief meteorologist in a WeatherTalk story

“July and August are the two months with the lowest average wind and the fewest windy days across our region,” Wheeler said. “Most of the time during those two months the wind is below 15 miles an hour — except around thunderstorms."

But that doesn't mean there will be a complete absence of wind in July and August.

“July and August are the least windy, but I guarantee we will see windy days,” Ritchison said. “Every month we have days that are windy.”

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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