Minnesota Farmer


Cold a comin’
November 16, 2011, 8:05 pm
Filed under: cold, Farm, frost, Ice, Minnesota, rain, snow, tillage, weather, wind, winter | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The weather here in Southwestern Minnesota is turning cold.  Not like you folks below the Mason-Dixon line call cold, I mean COLD.  This morning the thermometer on my car said 16 degrees when I drove into town for the bus route.  The radio station was reporting 12 degrees.  We’ve only begun.  It will get colder.

The wind has really made matters worse.  I’m sitting here listening to the wind trying to make its way into the office door as it whistles and whines with the changing wind speed.  The wind is being sucked out of the house.  For a person who heats with wood, that means more trips to the wood pile.

So far we’ve avoided the snow that has fallen on other regions of the country, regions less known for cold and snow.  I usually don’t expect much for snow until December, but we have had piles of snow earlier than this.  When it comes in October or November it usually stays and that makes for a long winter.  I prefer the years that we are still looking for snow on Christmas.

With the cold we can expect freeze up of lakes rivers and ponds.  There have been skins of ice on the pond several times in the last weeks, but total freeze up is not usual until the first week in December.  We do have some warmer days forecast for the coming days, so I don’t expect the ice to stay.  Nights however are seeming to stay below freezing more often than not from now on.

There has been considerable speculation on if the ground will freeze solid this year.  With the Lamberton Experiment station reporting the lowest soil moisture levels since the 1930’s we are dry here.  They are finding no significant moisture in the first 20 inches of the soil profile.  So the question remains, will the ground freeze.

My bet is, that with no water, the ground cannot freeze.  Yes, the soil will get cold, but with no water it cannot freeze solid as it usually does around here.  In fact, I’m expecting the loose soil to act like a blanket and protect the sol from freezing for a while.  This will have great implications for any moisture that falls this winter.

In years that the snow falls before freeze up the snow will actually slowly melt under the snow all winter long.  This allows for snow water to be removed to lower levels of the soil profile and decreases flood chances.  In years where wet soil freezes solid before the snow comes, snow melt will actually run off over the surface of the soil.  This runoff can come all at once in the spring and increase flood chances in the spring.  I have never seen a year like this where we have dry soil at freeze up.

This year farm fields in our area were worked dry.  We have large chunks of soil sticking up in the fields.  I am expecting the wind and snow to work on these exposed chunks and break them down this winter.  The soil will still be rough in the spring, but winter does seem to knock the tops off of any higher areas in the fields.

I am also expecting any snow melt to flow into those broken areas of the field and stay on the field.  Even iff the lower areas of the soil profile do freeze, the dry upper areas will act like a sponge and soak up the first snow melt that we get.  That, of coarse, is if we get snow.

We are still in a drought here.  A very uncommon event for Minnesota.  In my lifetime I do not remember such a long dry period.  If the drought continues, we could go through this winter with little if any snow.

In our area it is not uncommon to have only a little precipitation for most of the winter.  Most of our snow tends to fall at the beginning and the end of winter.  Yes, some years it does seem to snow every day, but I’m remembering those many years where area snowmobilers had to trailer their sleds to find snow.  Years of low snowfall amounts are more prevalent in my mind than those with heavy snow all winter.

So, winter is coming.  We know we’ll have cold, but how much snow and how much water will we get this winter.  Only time will tell.

Michael

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