Moisture-making weather pattern will prevail in March and April, agricultural meteorologist predicts
A wetter March and April will result from a change in the weather pattern from the northwest jet stream flow, which dominated January and February, to a southwest flow, said Daryl Ritchison, North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network director.
GRAND FORKS, N.D — Look for North Dakota’s early spring weather to be wetter than last year and the summer to be similar, a weather expert told farmers at the International Crops Expo in Grand Forks.
Snow in March and April, combined with the snowfall already accumulated this winter, will result in good soil moisture supplies for spring planting, predicted Daryl Ritchison, North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network director. Runoff also may cause spring flooding, he said.
The wetter March and April will result from a change in the weather pattern from the northwest jet stream flow, which dominated January and February, to a southwest flow. The southwest flow was prevalent during December 2021, a month which had several snowfalls, Ritchison noted.
Snow and cold rains will be likely with the southwest flow this spring.
“That’s where you’ve got your best hope for moisture,” he said.
During most of January and through mid-February a northwest jet stream flow resulted in frigid cold and high winds. The wind velocity, which several times reached more than 50 mph in eastern North Dakota, prompted the National Weather Service to issue several blizzard warnings for that area of North Dakota. Little snowfall had accompanied the winds as of Feb. 17.
Those weather conditions, called “Alberta Clippers,” enter and exit within about 15 hours and occur when the weather pattern has a northwest flow, Ritchison said.
The return to the southwest flow in March and April, along with earlier winter snow and rains in the fall, will result in adequate moisture for spring planting and for spurring enough alfalfa growth for the first cutting of hay, he predicted.
However, later in the spring and in the summer, he expects moisture to decrease.
“I don’t think that it will be as dry and warm as in 2021, but still drier than average," Ritchison said. That’s similar to 1988, when there was a major drought, and 1989, which was dry, but not as dry as 1988, he noted.
It’s important to keep in mind that the average precipitation on which the U.S. Drought Monitor is based on the years from 1991 to 2020, a time period in which excessive rains fell, Ritchison said. Statistics show that precipitation in more than 70% of the years since 1881 were below the average amount of precipitation in 1991-2020.
The years of excessive precipitation skewed the average, he said.
“Average does not grow your crops; rain does,” Ritchison said.