Dutcher: Don't Expect Snowfall To Reverse Drought

It will take exceptionally wet weather pattern April through May to alleviate drought.

Published on: Dec 4, 2012

Current forecasts suggest the state will not see any significant increase in precipitation this winter to reverse the drought, according to Al Dutcher, state climatologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"We're probably going to see a more normal winter," says Dutcher.

December through February typically is a dry period for the state, he says. "To eliminate the drought, we would have to set a record snow season, and even then, I don't know if it would be enough."

Those hoping winter will be more like last year's with above normal temperatures also are most likely out of luck.

Dutcher said the critical period to determine if the state will have another significant drought will be March into next spring.

Dutcher: Dont Expect Snowfall To Reverse Drought
Dutcher: Don't Expect Snowfall To Reverse Drought

"It's going to take an exceptionally wet pattern next April through May to have a decent shot at reducing the drought," according to Dutcher.

As the state progresses through this fall, forecasts are backing off on a projected El Nino event, which would typically bring cooler and wetter conditions to the southern one-third of the United States. "Models were indicating a potential El Nino into the late summer, but sea surface temperatures haven't cooperated."

Sea surface temperatures must average at least 0.9 degrees F. above normal for three consecutive months in the central and eastern Pacific Equatorial Basin to qualify for an El Nino weather pattern.

"There will be occasional bursts of the southern jet that will resemble El Nino, but then we'll have a more normalized winter pattern with a big player being the northern jet stream," he predicts.

Dutcher says the problem last winter was La Nina and the northern jet remained far north and kept very cold air from infiltrating the southern and northern plains. Currently, the state is not in a La Nina or El Nino weather pattern.

Dutcher says the northern jet stream already has carved out significant troughing east of the Rocky Mountains, bringing decent snow pack in central and southern Canada and the northern third of North Dakota.

"Therefore, we do have a snow foundation in place, so that will make a big difference. It should reduce the likelihood that we'll see the extent of the above normal temperature pattern that we experienced last winter," he says.

Dutcher says that portions of the Nebraska Panhandle, as of late November, had nearly accumulated half the snow it received last year.

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Farmers weathering 2012 are learning plenty about everything from crop insurance to seed genetics as parched conditions reshape farm business across the country. Consider our 5-part approach to moving ahead after the toughest drought since the 1930s.