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Melting snow won’t help drought

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As Hubbard Coujnty experienced  another 3 to 4" of snow overnight, melting winter snowfall won’t do much to alleviate the extremely dry soil conditions across Minnesota, even if some areas experience spring flooding, said Greg Spoden, the state climatologist.

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Roughly 70 percent of Minnesota is in extreme drought or severe drought. “All of the snow that has fallen over the winter by and large remains on top of the landscape, a landscape that is largely frozen,” he said.

Despite winter precipitation that’s a little above average for much of the state and well above historic levels for parts of west-central and north-central Minnesota, soil moisture remains near all-time lows in much of the state.

Even flooding at this point won’t alleviate a drought.

The National Weather Service, which produces flood outlooks, has called for a high risk of flooding in the southern reaches of the Red River Valley, including the communities of Fargo-Moorhead and Wahpeton-Breckenridge in the late winter and early spring.

As the spring melt comes, the sun’s energy will be used to melt the snow first, rather than thaw out the ground. Water will flow over the land, leaving it drought-stricken once the waters subside. “First the snow has to leave before the soil unfreezes,” Spoden said.

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