Drought conditions improving with recent snow

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It may not seem like it as we look around the snow-covered landscape, but the Northland is still recovering from this summer’s historic drought.

"It was the first time on record that we went into the exceptional category in Minnesota and Northern Minnesota on the drought monitor, which was a new product back in the year 2000,” explained NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Joe Moore. “So it was the worst drought in over 20 years. It was basically equivalent to something that we saw back in the late eighties in terms of how historic it was.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Minnesota has not had any areas in exceptional drought since mid-September. Since mid-December, there have been no areas in extreme drought.

"Now we’re standing out anywhere between zero, which is abnormally dry to severe drought data just in parts of the Minnesota Arrowhead and around Koochiching county," said Moore.

These areas may be in severe drought currently, but this is significant improvement compared to the extreme drought the Arrowhead and Koochiching county experienced just three months ago.

"As long as we kind of continue to see storms like we’re seeing today where we get a decent amount of snowfall, it’s good for our snow pack,” said Moore. “It’s good for getting out of the drought."

Portions of the Northland stretching from Lake of the Woods to Cook county have had the most snow this season, adding moisture to the driest part of the region.

"It’s really just good luck that we’ve been able to have a lot of good precipitation over areas where we really need it the most, especially across the Arrowhead and the North Shore, where we really saw very dry conditions last spring and summer,” explained Moore.

Since the soil is currently frozen, most of the moisture replenishment will hold off until the spring when the ground warms up again.

"The spring season is always a balancing act because we want rain and we want precipitation because we obviously want to get out of the drought and get a little bit back to normal. but one of the risks that we see across the upper Midwest, where we get snow in the winter is flooding in the spring from that snow melt."

An occasional warm day like this past Tuesday does not do much to melt the snow. Several warm, sunny days are needed to get the snow pack up to 32 degrees. Once that happens and the snow slowly melts, drought conditions can start improving, as long as the weather works in our favor.

"It’s a slow process to get out of the drought,” said Moore. “A lot of times we might have to hang on to these abnormally dry conditions until we kind of continue to see a good wet pattern into the spring, but the outlook is looking good."

The WDIO Storm Track Weather Team is predicting a snowy spring, with a snowfall total of over 100 inches for the 2021-2022 snow season.