Wettest winter in over a century has ended our drought

March 05, 2023

WASECA — Last summer the Mankato region was suffering from drought conditions, but this winter’s burdensome rain, sleet and snowstorms have brought it to an end.

“We just closed the book on the winter months and it was our wettest winter on record as far as liquid equivalent. And the records go back to 1915,” said Tom Hoverstad, scientist at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca.

Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said that despite the dry summer, the Greater Mankato region tends to be one of the wetter areas of the state.

“Last summer, if you go from Mankato to the east and southeast of Mankato there weren’t as significant drought conditions, but the areas to the west and southwest of you had serious drought.

“We had a lot of precipitation and a lot of rain in December, January and February. So the wet winter really eased things in your area and it started easing things in the more severe drought areas to the southwest,” Blumenfeld said.

The latest Drought Monitor map shows Blue Earth and Nicollet counties are now listed as only abnormally dry, why the areas southwest and west of Mankato have improved to a “moderate drought” condition.

Hoverstad said Waseca received 7 inches of water equivalent over the three-month winter period. “That’s not a lot. We can get that in one month in the summer. But it helps a lot.”

He said about 3 inches of water remains in the snow pack. While not all of that will end up getting into the soil, some of it will. “Even if half of that gets into the soil it will be enough to get crops going in the spring. It won’t last a long time but it doesn’t take much to get crops growing.”

He said there’s a better chance of getting water in the soil this spring because there is only about 8 inches of frost in the ground, when there is normally 12-20 inches this time of year.

“And the soil temperature is 30 degrees so it won’t take long to get rid of the frost. The soil will start warming from the bottom up and from the top down so it won’t take long.”

Blumenfeld warned that the Drought Monitor map can’t predict what is to come.

“A good way of thinking of this is that the Drought Monitor is trying to account for what’s happening now and what might happen soon.

“But if you go back to last June, we’re still significantly short of moisture. So if we get normal precipitation this spring and summer we’ll stay out of drought but if we don’t get much precip this spring and summer we can be back in drought quickly.”