Wet winter a big help with drought

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Late Feb. drought conditions in Wisc.

In my last blog entry I left off touching on how our messy mix of rain and snow has given us some firepower in our ongoing drought battle. That case was made stronger when a few days later a winter storm buried much of the area under 6-12” of snow (and in some places 15”).

Lets back up the calendar to a time when the land was parched. After an arid fall followed a bone dry summer we finshed the 6 month stretch from June to November running a precipitation deficit of 7.30” (12.78” vs. normal 20.08”). By early October, all of southeast WI was under a moderate to extreme drought depending on location. There was little hope the typical driest season of the year would provide relief.

Fast forward to today and we’re closing the books on the 3rd wettest winter (meteorological winter) on record. December, January, and February (1st-27th) brought 10.06” of rain, sleet, and snow, nearly double the normal amount of 5.39”. Just think, we were only one good snow/rain event away from matching the precipitation total from the previous 6 months!

Southeast WI recorded 150-200% the normal amount of precip. in Feb.

Southeast WI recorded 150-200% the normal amount of precip. in Feb.

Now there is a catch. The abundant precipitation in recent months doesn’t get used as efficiently as if it were to fall any other time of the year. The reason? Frozen ground. When rain falls or snow melts in winter it doesn’t soak into the soil very well. Normal soil can soak up runoff like a sponge but when it’s frozen it soaks it up like an old, crusty sponge… you know the kind you have to run under the faucet and squeeze a few times before it absorbs any water.

Heading into March, most of our area is considered abnormally dry, basically on the cusp of a moderate drought (parts of far southern WI are still under a moderate drought). We’ll need a wet spring to keep the momentum going.

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