ST. PAUL, Minn. - Melting winter snowfall won't do much to ease the extremely dry soil conditions across Minnesota, even those areas that experience spring flooding, according to state climatologist Greg Spoden.
Roughly 70 percent of Minnesota is currently in extreme drought or severe drought.
"All of the snow that has fallen over the winter by and large remains on top of the landscape, a landscape that is largely frozen," Spoden said. "Now the dust remains beneath the concrete."
Despite winter precipitation that's a bit above average for much of the state, and well above historic levels for parts of west-central and north-central Minnesota, soil moisture remains near all-time lows across much of Minnesota.
The National Weather Service has called for a high risk of flooding in the southern reaches of the Red River Valley, including the communities of Fargo-Moorhead and Wahpeton-Breckenridge in the late winter and early spring.
As the spring melt occurs the sun's energy will first be used to melt the snow rather than thaw out the ground. Water will therefor flow over the frozen land rather than soaking in.
Above average spring rain is essential to easing statewide drought conditions. Average March through May rainfall in Minnesota ranges from six to eight inches.
"If we get at least that, we'll be fine for the spring planting season," Spoden said. "But to replenish those desperately dry subsoils, we'll have to exceed that six- to eight-inch amount."
The latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, calls for above average precipitation from March through May for the eastern half of Minnesota and for equal chances of above or below normal precipitation for the western half.
For more on the latest drought conditions check out the Minnesota Climatology Working Group website.
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