8/12/21 Sound Ag Advice 432

For farmers and ranchers in most parts of North Dakota, drought conditions continue to be top of mind. Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, joins this week’s Sound Ag Advice to discuss the current conditions and give his short- and long-term forecast.
Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Ag Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Daryl Ritchison, Director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature provided by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I’m joined this week by Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN). It seems like the word drought has been on everybody's mind this summer from agricultural producers to urban homeowners. Daryl, can you give us a current snapshot of the drought conditions around the state?

Daryl: It's surprisingly equal. As most people know, we have well over 100 NDAWN stations within North Dakota we have some through Montana and Minnesota. In total now we're up to about 170. Some of them are just rain gauge only sites, most of them have a complete complement of data, information, but if you look at that data source, a lot of the state is approximately 50% of normal. There are spots there's probably somewhere in the 10 to 20% of the state that's actually doing quite well. They've gotten the right thunderstorms they're doing really well. And there's probably you know 10 to 20% of the state is just doing awful I mean, they're at 20, 25, 30% of normal range. But you know that other bunch, you know, probably two-thirds are, you know, approximately 50% are in the 40 to 60 range and trust me, as everyone knows, being at 60 to 62% of average rain, is a lot better than 42% . You know you've gotten that extra thunderstorm. But you know that’s been the situation, just in the last week we've gotten a couple of really good rains across the southern tier of the state and then especially northeastern North Dakota.

If you look back, Kelli, at past dry summers, say 2017, 2012, 2006, even the famed 1988. All of those years, started to see a little pattern change in August, and I’m not saying, that you know, the dryness is going to end.  Those years, though, we went back to more average precipitation not for everybody, but a good chunk of the state, and you know really, in the last week was a testament to that. That we got a little bit more precipitation and although we are about to hit another kind of a tough stretch, it’s going to be warm and dry. As we go through the next week or two, it looks like we're going to get back into a more rainy pattern, so yeah it's a really tough time. I see at least a little window that maybe say the soybeans that desperately need rain in August, there will be pockets that will get that necessary rain, but you know, to get out of this is going to require more than just you know a few weeks back of average precipitation, of course, but I think at least August, will be a little bit better than May, June, July we're and many areas, not all, but in many areas.

Kelli: So, you mentioned that we might have a few chances for some rain coming up in a short term forecast. Is that for all parts of the state or is that just in certain areas of the state?

Daryl: More than likely in certain areas, and what those certain areas are you know, in this type of scenario long range is really, really tough. Let's look at just the last week as many people probably remember or know, we had some pretty good rains in the southern tier of the state there's some areas in the south, central and southwest. That they got a lot of, probably a little bit too much, rain in small areas, but there were some flash flood warnings out and then, if you look at the event that occurred Monday evening.  You know our Langdon NDAWN station had well over three inches of rain that's more than a whole average month’s rain for August, for instance, and there are pockets out there of an inch and a half and two and a half inches but at the same time, if you live anywhere between Fargo and Bismarck neither event hit you at all, you either got zero or just a few hundreds of an inch.
That's the whole scenario with thunderstorm complexes. The fall of 2019 which most people still remember, pretty much everybody got a lot of rain. That's the exception, not the rule, more often than not, you know in our summer seasons, they come with thunderstorm complexes so these four or five counties do pretty well. These four or five counties get very, very little. But if we have a more average summer over the course of the summer, you know everyone gets you know into those thunderstorm complexes and we've had very few thunderstorm complexes the summer.
Of course, and when we've had them, you know they tended to fall in the same areas and again why you know, say, maybe as much as 20% of states not doing all that bad because it keeps that same 20% got multiple thunderstorms, so the odds favor as being kind of hit and miss, Kelli, but you know if we get even three or four thunderstorm complexes at least, it will get everyone with something because let's be honest in July, I mean there's parts of the state that pretty much didn't rain almost the entire month or very, very little. At least it looks a little bit more promising in the short term, say in the next two three weeks.

Kelli: One final question for you Daryl, and I know this is variable across all parts of the state and, depending on what we're growing, whether that's grass range land or whether it's crops, but the question I have for you is: About how much rain would it take this fall to return us to a more normal pattern or more normal conditions?

Daryl: Most of the state in the summertime and by summer I mean May, June, July and August. But if we extend that out say later and maybe a little bit in September that we're probably talking anywhere from about 11 to 14 inches of rain. Well, if you take that 50% and again it's approximation, you know we're at least you know, five to six inches being conservatively below average.

For instance, November, most of the state only averages between three quarters of an inch and an inch for the entire month of November. After that, the ground freezes. It varies on the year but usually around Thanksgiving the ground is frozen we don't get penetration anymore.
But that's just a little bit of an idea, Kelli, that we really are talking you're going to need three to sixes to at least get you up closer to that. And really in many years a little bit more than that, the expectation is just not very likely going to happen.
Winter, a snowy winter still only three or four inches of moisture, it adds up to a lot of snow, but could cause problems because of that, but to me, if you know can get a little bit in the fall, but it's really late spring/early summer is our big rainy season and my strong suspicion is that's when we're going to have the best opportunities to catch up, so I think this talk about soil moisture replenishing for 2022 is going to be a very big topic of conversation, probably for the next six months.
Kelli: Thank you so much for the information today Daryl. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.

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