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We need more snow

February 25, 2014 - Kriss Nelson
We need more snow. Before readers begin gathering stones, I want to assure all that I’m serious. I’m also concerned. As a result of receiving next to nothing in snow cover, coupled with six arctic breakouts this winter, the average frost depth in Webster County is a whopping two feet. It was 28 degrees at the 24-inch level on Feb. 10 and it hasn’t been very warm since. And it’s not going to get warm anytime soon. In order for fields to thaw in time for planting, we’ll need either 6 to 8 inches of snow cover, or a lengthy warming trend. The snow would act like a blanket, insulating the ground and drawing the 40- to 50-degree temperatures upward. The snow then melts from the bottom, soaking in and making room in our moisture-challenged soil profiles for spring rains. Moisture-challenged? The U.S. Drought Monitor shows all or portions of Webster, Calhoun, Sac, Carroll, Greene, Boone, Story, Dallas and Polk counties in “severe drought conditions.” We’ve been there all winter. Or there could be a warming trend. The first day of spring is 23 days away. shows just two days forecasted with 50 or more degrees as daytime highs. How far away are the first spring rains? Accuweather’s extended forecast shows no rain until March 21. It’s possible the warming we’ll see will thaw down to the two-foot level, but not with mid-30 to 40—degree highs and below-freezing overnights. If the rains come earlier than March 21, we’ll probably watch it run off the frozen surface and into streams. ISU ag economist Chad Hart has been telling audiences since November that it will likely take a weather event somewhere in the world to draw down the surplus world-ending stocks of corn. He also said North Central Iowa was the worst place in the world to grow corn in 2013. I’d hate to see North Iowa experience Hart’s weather event. It’s someone else’s turn. We need more snow.


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