It’s time to work on planting equipment as the 2023 growing season will soon be here!
The frost is not as deep as in some years, and drought conditions last year may allow soils to dry out quickly this spring. Farmers will be checking fields for frost depth and tile lines for running water.
Under snow-covered ground, the frost has only been 10 inches deep or less across much of the state, said Kenny Blumenfeld, Minnesota DNR climate scientist.
He spoke at the 15th Annual Nutrient Management Conference held in St. Cloud and virtually on Feb. 21.
Valentine’s Day rain of 0.5-1.25 inches fell across the southern two-thirds of Minnesota. These rains have improved subsurface water levels this winter, Blumenfeld said.
Northeast Minnesota had a healthy 2 feet of snowpack in late February, while central and southern Minnesota had an 8-18 inches of snowpack following snow on Feb. 22-23.
Outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center suggest wet conditions in March and then normal spring planting weather.
Despite winter rainfall and snow, some areas remain 5-10 inches water deficient since June 2022.
It’s a big change from the decade of 2010-19. During that time, Minnesota was wet most of the time.
“It might have been 40, 50, or even up to 65 inches of additional precipitation that fell in these areas in the 2010s,” he said. Average precipitation in central Minnesota is about 30 inches per year, and in southern Minnesota about 35 inches per year. Some regions received nearly two years of additional precipitation in the 2010 decade.
The exceptions were the dry years of 2011 and 2012, although Minnesota had better yield than many states in the Corn Belt.
The year of 2019 was very wet – the wettest year on record on a statewide basis, Blumenfeld said.
But since 2020, the rainfall hasn’t been so plentiful in Minnesota, he said.
“We’ve actually had three straight years of dry conditions (below the 50th percentile),” Blumenfeld said.
Western and northern Minnesota experienced drought in 2020; and in 2021 the drought began to expand and intensify across the state. The drought was most severe up through August 2021 and then began improving.
In 2022, most of northern Minnesota recovered from the drought with heavy rain throughout the spring and early summer. Most of Minnesota was wet during that time, too. Then, the rain shut off for the remainder of the year, especially in southern Minnesota, only to start again in November.
Climate change signs
Blumenfeld took a little time to talk about climate change in Minnesota. He said every place in the world is unique with its own climate – so what affects one area doesn’t necessarily affect somewhere else. There are a variety of factors that go into determining climate changes and/or weather patterns.
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Located in the middle of North America, the Midwest is affected by different factors than places along the ocean seaboards or near the equator.
“Heat is not distributed evenly across the world,” he said. “As a result, weather doesn’t change in the same way everywhere. Things that are true in places like California – those might not be things we observe here.”
Minnesota has always had a wide variety of temperatures and weather conditions, and it will remain that way because of its geography in the middle of the continent.
In general, though, the warming winters with fewer cold extremes are the strongest signal that climate change is occurring in Minnesota.
On average, there are some very cold days, but it isn’t as cold as it used to be.
Comparing 1895 to 2021; northern Minnesota winter lows are 7.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, central Minnesota is 6 degrees warmer, and southern Minnesota is 4.9 degrees warmer.
Scientists believe these trends toward higher temperatures will continue.
“We are likely to have more precipitation in the mid-century, but will there be more water for crops, etc.? It could evaporate with the high temperatures,” he said. Blumenfeld referred to these situations as “flash droughts,” and said that Minnesota experienced a flash drought in 2022.
“Heat waves are more likely to occur and become common over time,” he said.
Minnesota hasn’t seen significant jumps in daily high temperatures in the mid-summer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Blumenfeld pointed to records from Portland, Ore., that showed very similar weather patterns to Minnesota. In 2021, the region suffered from five very hot days – including one day when the temperature reached 116 degrees.
Five days with temperatures above 100 across Minnesota would greatly affect humans, livestock, crops and equipment, including roads and other types of infrastructure.
University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP)
As time goes on, climate change will affect human health and public health; as well as quality of life, types of crops, and products that can be grown/raised; and the cost of living and farming.
The University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Extension Service are gradually increasing their commitments to helping the state, nation, and world deal with new climate realities through MCAP.
The goal of MCAP is to seek ways to support thriving communities and landscapes. The department intends to “leverage” collaborations, resources, and knowledge; and work with science to make climate-informed decisions.
“We want to ensure our landscapes, economies, and communities are able to withstand and recover from the impacts of a warming world,” said Heidi Roop, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership.
Partnering University research with dissemination of that information through Extension, MCAP staff want to build knowledge exchanges, coordination, and collaboration.
Roop asks that farmers and citizens visit climate.umn.edu/our-mission to learn much more about MCAP. She is also looking for volunteers and researchers to work within Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework.
Visit https://mailchi.mp/ed2e7283ad07/subscribe-to-the-mcap-mailing-list to receive the latest news on MCAP, as well as webinars, and conferences.
Here's to a great 2023 growing season and healthy climate!