After Snowstorms, Drought Conditions Are Improving Across Missouri

Olga Dorovskykh

The winter’s two large snowstorms brought short-term relief to the drought in Missouri. However, the deepest subsoil layers still remain dry.

“The mild winter regime came to end in mid-February with a significant weather pattern change, and two major snow storms impacting the Show-Me state,” said Patrick Guinan, Missouri State Climatologist.

January and February marked the first time precipitation has been above normal for two consecutive months since November and December 2011. In February, most of the state got an average of 3.32 inches of moisture, or an inch above normal, Guinan said.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released on March 7, southeastern Missouri is no longer in drought.

However, other parts of the state are still severely dry. For instance, Lawrence County got 3.92 inches of snow which is about .37 inches above the normal precipitation for this area, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. “The top soil moisture good and wet we are still – 16.21 inches short for total soil moisture for the year 2011 – 2013,” the CCRHS reports.

University of Missouri soil scientist Randall Miles said after the 2012 drought it will take almost two years for the subsoil moisture to recover in Missouri. “The rain and snow will have to come almost continuously – an almost London type of weather pattern – if the soil is to be recharged soon,” Miles said. “It will have to come down slow and steady to minimize runoff.”

“With the green up period pulling a lot of this moisture out of the ground we are still not out of the woods yet with the 2011-2012 drought if it turns dry again,” the CCRHS’s Lawrence County report says.

The CCRHS suggests it can take up to 30 inches of loose, fluffy snow — or as little as 2 to 4 inches of wet, compact snow — to produce an inch of water. The snow Missouri got in the second snowstorm on Feb. 26 was wet, Guinan said. “Much of the snow fell when temperatures were at or slightly above freezing, leading to a heavy, wet snow,” he said.

However, predictions for the season indicate that drought is not going to step back in spring. The Climate Prediction Center‘s spring outlook for the next three months indicates a higher likelihood of above-normal temperatures for all of Missouri.

Missouri’s agriculture suffered from the dry weather patterns last summer. According to a report from the National Agricultural Statistic Service, the drought-reduced yield was 75 bushels per acre, the lowest since 51 bushels per acre in the drought year of 1983.

Livestock and dairy producers are affected by lack of corn supply in the state. Ethanol production is also down. As Missouri Business Alert previously reported, the Dairy Farmers of America milk processing plant in Monett will close later this year, letting go of 86 employees with some jobs ending as soon as September. Also, one of the biggest producers of ethanol in Missouri, Poet Biorefining, temporarily suspended operations at its Macon facility because the drought left the company unable to source enough local corn.

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