Sound Ag Advice

Daryl Ritchison, North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network director, joins Sound Ag Advice to talk about the potential for spring flooding in the eastern part of North Dakota and gives his short-term forecast.

What is Sound Ag Advice?

“Sound Ag Advice” presented by the NDSU Extension Service features NDSU Extension specialists and staff talking about current crop and livestock issues. “Sound Ag Advice” is free and can be used in any way you see fit.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Daryl Ritchison, North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network Director

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson, and I'm joined this week by Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network. Daryl, we've heard a lot in the news about how parts of North Dakota are in some different weather patterns. In the eastern part of the state, people are talking about flooding, in the western part of the state, people are still worried about whether they had enough moisture this winter to mitigate some of the drought effects of the fall. So, can you give us a snapshot of where we're currently at in terms of moisture in the state?

Daryl: Well, let's start off with the flooding. Certainly, there is some flooding, and a vast majority of the areas it's either for that river level for that particular spot would be either in the minor stage of flooding, or on the very low side of moderate, you know, just getting a little bit in there. Unless we would get a very big rain system, which I just don't foresee at this point anytime soon, you know, it probably wouldn't be any much worse than that. Some of the flooding, even though it's not a huge concern in comparison to a lot of other years, so far, in some ways can be attributed to last fall's rain, because we had a lot of rain in the Red River Valley last fall. So we're reasonably saturated. So with the snow melt and everything going on, you know, it's why we're having at least the flooding that we're currently having. The good news is it doesn't look like any big rains are coming in the short term. So by the time, if we would get one and say two weeks or three weeks from now, everything would have gone down by then the ground would dry up to be able to absorb some of that. So I really foresee it not getting much worse than what some of the current forecasts are, which again, in most areas are minor or just a little bit to the moderate stage.

Out west, you know, northwestern North Dakota got a little bit of snow, this year, at least close to average, the southwestern part of the state just never seemed to get hardly any moisture at all very similar to what happened, of course, a year ago, they need the precipitation and the rainfall, especially the southwest because they didn't even really have any snow to melt and absorb a little bit, they've just continually been masked. The northern tier of the state and eastern part of North Dakota had a wetter and colder winter than average. But the southwest, anywhere south and west of the Missouri River was closer to average actually, and had a more average winter for temperatures, but well below average for moisture. And again, I don't foresee any in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I've told ranchers all winter, I think if you're going to catch up in western North Dakota it's going to come with a big spring storm, you know, sometime in April, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. I told them I just don't see anything changing until that point. And sadly, you know that to this point has come true. So we'll just for them, wait and see if we can get a good rain in April, because as you mentioned, they could really use it.

Kelli: You mentioned a little bit about soil moisture. And it sure seems like we went from a really cold winter to a pretty sudden warm up. How does that quick change in temperature affect flooding and/or the amount of moisture that the soil can take up from the snow we had this winter.

Daryl: The quick warm up in many ways is a disadvantage because we're past the equinox now. And so, we have the same sun angle now as we do in mid-September, as we get into April, April, in many ways is August. So we have huge evaporation potential. You know, most of the state only averages an inch to an inch and a half for moisture in April with an August sun angle. So you have several inches of potential evaporation during the month. And if it turns out to be a really sunny month, you live up to that potential, so you can dry off really, really fast in April. And so that's why if we don't get that rain, it will just exasperate the dryness off to the west. In the east, we had a lot of rain last fall. And then adequate snow. I mean, it was above average winter for precipitation, but not by a lot. And so far, of course, March has been dry, too. And so again, there's a lot of evaporation potential on a positive that will mean maybe getting out in fields pretty quickly if we don't get another big storm. But again, in that same time, you can dry things out. So soil moisture is doing pretty well in the northern tier and the eastern part of North Dakota into western Minnesota, but that can change in a hurry if we go the month of April with below average precipitation, you will see the moisture level, especially in that top three, four inches where everything could be planted, drying off very, very quickly whereas below that, it will probably stay adequate for moisture for a few more weeks. But again, I have to emphasize you know, the southwestern part of the state was dry last fall, and didn't get as much rain as in the East, didn't get much moisture this winter and so far, has been dry this spring and that's probably the most desperate area for precipitation at this point.

Kelli: Thinking of precipitation, finally, what is your short-term forecast for the state here in the next month or so?

Daryl: You know in the short-term, planting season, I've been saying this during a lot of my winter talks that I thought you know the spring would be at least close to average. But I've always, I think this summer is going to be another dry summer just not as dry as last year and very likely not as warm as last year. So a better year, but still not where, I think is still going to be another year will people going, Oh, when is that next rain coming, when is the next thunderstorm going to hit? I really need moisture. I think it's going to be another one of those years. Just not again, as bad as what we saw in 2021.

Kelli: Thank you for your time today, Daryl. Our guest today has been Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.