Nebraska's Winter Was 27th Coldest and 18th Driest on Record

Nebraska's Winter Was 27th Coldest and 18th Driest on Record

Climatologist believes planting delays should not be a concern this spring.

Al Dutcher, state climatologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says planting delays should not be a concern and that temperatures should be on the upswing across the state.

While soil temperatures are still below normal for planting, that problem can be solved if there are persistent 60-degree-and-above-high days so producers can plant without worrying about the viability of their seed, says Dutcher.

A cold winter has put the state about two to three weeks behind normal.

Nebraska's Winter Was 27th Coldest and 18th Driest on Record

Temperatures for the entire state of Nebraska were 1.8 degrees below normal this winter, the 27th coldest since records began in 1896, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Individual locations across eastern Nebraska averaged more than 3 degrees below normal. In addition, precipitation came in at 70% below normal, the 18th driest winter since 1896.

The latest snowpack information from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service as of early April showed:
•The South Platte River Basin snow water equivalent--amount of water in snow pack--is 133% of normal.
•The northern branch of Platte River, north of Seminole Reservoir in Wyoming, is at 140% snow water equivalent.
•South Central Wyoming, the basin that would impact Pathfinder and Alcova, is at 125% snow water equivalent.
•The Laramie Basin, which is important to Scottsbluff area irrigators, is at 139% snow water equivalent.
•The Sweet Water Basin, in the western extension of the Platte River Basin, is at 114% snow water equivalent, while the Casper Drainage Basin is at 129% snow water equivalent.

"With these equivalents and normal moisture for the remainder of April, it should result in above normal stream flow rates through mid-summer," Dutcher says. "We also can expect a great component of runoff this yea--85 to 90% of that snowpack will become a runoff component.

"So, my suspicion right now is if we get normal precipitation, we'll be looking at runoff in the 125 to 130% range of normal, which would be a significant improvement over the past two spring seasons."

However, Dutcher says it most likely will not completely refill northern Platte River Basin reservoirs. In addition, the longer the snowpack stays around, the better likelihood it will hold excessive heat from building into the Central Rockies and should help supplement front range thunderstorm development, at least for the first part of the growing season.

The primary focus this winter has been the battle between a strong upper air ridge situated over the southwestern U.S. and a deep trough over the eastern half of the country. The resultant upper air ridge has led to the development of extreme to exceptional drought over most of California, Dutcher said. Farther east, heavy moisture has persisted over the eastern Corn Belt since last October.

"We have seen that ridge weaken in response to above-normal sea surface temps developing in Gulf of Alaska," Dutcher said. "More importantly, a more active precipitation pattern has shown signs of developing across the central and northern High Plains region. Unless an extended dry pattern develops, significant planting delay issues for the upper Great Lakes and Ohio River valley regions are likely."

While there was significant moisture this past fall across eastern Nebraska, an exceptionally dry December-to-March period eliminated those surpluses, and the U.S. Drought Monitor is showing moderate drought conditions have developed with exception of northeast Nebraska, he says.

This is mainly due to lack of snow and its influence on stock ponds, stream flows and water tables.

Spring crops and native vegetation will begin to extract moisture out of the soil profile during the next couple of weeks, making it critically important that moisture events bring at least normal precipitation so sub-soil moisture reserves continue to build during the summer growing season, Dutcher says.

TAGS: USDA
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