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An Unusual Winter in Northern Farm Country

It’s been an unusual winter in parts of the Upper Midwest and the Corn Belt. While the north is normally a frozen tundra, temps have been much warmer than typical through most of the winter. Dennis Todey, director of the Midwest Climate Hub in Iowa, says there are two reasons behind the warmup.

Todey says, “One, we have a very strong El Nino that has impacted our winter, and then we’ve got some larger background climate change issues that are impacting our winters. The overall warmth that we have seen this winter was not a surprise. And despite that one big cold shot we had earlier in January, the winter has overall been warmer than average, and that’s the way it’s looking, so we have a very good chance of that being warmer than average for the whole winter.”

Some parts of the region received several inches of snow while other areas are completely free of snow. Todey says, “As for the snow, that is a very odd situation because the storm track lined up for that period around Christmas time to the early part of January where we had several storm systems over the same area. Around Christmas time, it was mostly rain in the region, and then as we got into January, we had two major storm systems that crossed central and eastern Iowa along with a lesser system that dropped all that snowfall.”

Some parts of the Midwest and Corn Belt are dry, while some are at the other end of the moisture scale.

Todey says, “The Eastern Corn Belt going from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio has become relatively wet over the last month-plus. The situation has improved there. Missouri has also improved. Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of eastern Nebraska, especially a good chunk of Iowa, still is very dry overall. The carry-on from the dry conditions we had last year and in the fall has not improved an awful lot. And then the problem has been trying to assess with this precipitation that has fallen or whenever it falls is how we talk about drought after that, because the melting snow and then the rain has been able to enter the soil moisture profile, which has been a great benefit, a great boost, so that’s been sorely needed.”

Even in areas where water is running off, the extra precipitation is helpful. He says, “In places where we’re getting runoff, that’s okay because the dryness has been pervasive enough that we had a lot of streams that were low and are still low in Iowa. We have low groundwater in places in Iowa too, so we need water in multiple forms to try to overcome those issues. We’ve overcome a lot of those issues in the eastern Corn Belt, so much so that we have some minor flooding occurring in places now, so we’ve generally improved the situation over there.”

Story courtesy of the NAFB News Service

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