The warm, dry winter may be welcome for some people, but it could make for a difficult spring for ag producers and irrigators.
Nebraska climatologist Al Dutcher says his primary concern is the lack of snowpack in the Rockies. Dutcher says either snow or rain is needed for replenishment soon or a dry pattern will dig in and create problems.
“The concern is if that snowpack disappears earlier than normal, we tend to see a drier pattern establish itself in the Western High Plains and then we need to wait for the monsoon to kick in and hopefully bring moisture in as we get into late July,” Dutcher says. That will determine how much extra water irrigators need to use and whether the drought intensifies.
Dutcher says if the dry and unseasonably warm temperatures continue, the chance for an early spring increases, which could lead to conditions that would hurt the winter wheat and alfalfa crops.
While traveling in southwest Nebraska over the weekend, Dutcher says he saw some of the winter wheat starting to green up.
“It doesn’t look like it’s completely broke dormancy,” he says, “but all indications to me are there that if we don’t get a sustained cold stretch with some snow cover, most likely it’s going to be an early spring and that’s going to just set us up for problems down the road.”
Dutcher says he’s hoping a cold front in Alaska will come down soon and bring moisture with it.
A winter storm did dump anywhere from 3 to 13 inches of snow across much of Nebraska last weekend.
Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton