How dry? Individuals can report humidity or lack of humidity, to help develop an accurate drought monitor
Spring is officially “here,” but much of the Tri-State Livestock News area isn’t watching it. With much of the region emerging from its second snowless winter, residual grass is limited and runoff water is non-existent in many areas.
The National Drought Monitor is a compilation of field data and observations. The Drought Monitor helps determine eligibility for several federal government assistance programs, including ELAP (Emergency Livestock Assistance Program), LFP (Livestock Forage Program) and haymaking and grazing of the CRP.
Drought Monitor can be found at https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ .
According to the Drought Monitor, eastern North Dakota and far eastern South Dakota are no longer in drought conditions. Drought severity in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska varies widely depending on which part of the state you’re looking at.
Corey Hart farms, raises and feeds livestock near Chasely, North Dakota. He said the subsoil moisture in his area is limited and the snow they have received over the winter has been deceiving.
“Whenever there is a snowfall they consider it wet but this winter it blew and we are quickly back on bare ground. part drained, which is useful for filling dams, but with the ground frozen, most of the moisture does not seep into the fields.
Hart believes North Dakota is suffering from a much more severe drought than the Drought Monitor reflects. He worries, for example, about the lack of hay available at the end of winter. “There’s not a lot of hay. I went looking and found about 100 miles for $250 a ball,” he said.
If the drought persists, producers will again be forced to buy more hay than usual, even after selling their herds, he said. High priced hay with additional transportation costs due to high fuel prices makes input costs for farmers even higher.
Making CRP available for hay and/or pasture as soon as possible is another option to potentially provide some relief, he said. These dates are determined in part by the Drought Monitor.
North Dakota State climatologist Dr. Adnan Akyuz helps develop the Drought Monitor. It takes data such as actual snowfall and precipitation, and combines it with local reports from county extension officers and others, to make a recommendation as to the drought situation in North Dakota.
He also consults with his counterparts in South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, to make sure they are on the same page.
He said that because county agents tend to connect with local growers, as well as travel through their counties, they make good referrals.
Growers can submit reports on moisture conditions in their area here: https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ – Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the “Submit Report” button, then click on the URL for “Health Monitoring Observer Reports”, then click on “Submit Report”.
Growers can indicate whether or not their particular area has received moisture during a recent storm, what their humidity conditions have been like recently, explain how it affects their operation, and even submit photos. All of this information helps decision makers determine where to draw lines and how to make drought designations.
Akyuz said the 2021 drought was “significant” in western North Dakota and the impacts continue to be felt. “The 2021 drought broke records for longevity and severity. It will take above normal precipitation, including snowfall, to reverse these conditions,” he said.
Akyuz said he and his counterparts try to be as specific as possible and if growers see moisture running off rather than entering the ground, they can report it. “When this happens, we call it a ‘deviation from normal soil moisture,'” he said.
Adam Hartman, a climatologist with the NOAA/NWS/NCEP Climate Prediction Center, also encouraged individuals to file reports on the Drought Monitor website.
“These reports allow you to upload photos. They are a great help. Data can show us “the state of the soil”, but it doesn’t show us what’s happening on the ground – maybe the wind is literally blowing away the topsoil and now our seeds that we just planted are gone. in the ground. Photos are really beneficial.
Hartman encouraged these reports to include background information such as “we received 0.5 inches of rain on June 10, but the next day the temperature was 95 degrees and the wind was blowing at 30 mph, so the humidity didn’t didn’t last.”
Hartman reminded people that accumulating data helps paint a more accurate picture, so often drought conditions aren’t reflected on the drought monitor “immediately.”
“Data can be accumulated over 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, you can see a lag. But it’s a weekly process and we want to track as much as possible,” he said.
Melissa Smith of the National Weather Service said there is another way for growers to report their weather situation. The “CoCoRahS” or Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, is used by the National Weather Service to understand humidity and other local weather events. This information is also taken into account by the authors of Drought Monitor.
Anyone can report their humidity at https://www.cocorahs.org/ website, but Smith, who is based in Rapid City, South Dakota, recommends that they do it regularly — daily is best, but weekly reports work too. Observers should use a standard 4-inch rain gauge. Those who choose to report should realize that “no rain” reports are just as important if not more important than rain reports. “Reporting your zeros is just as important as reporting your rainfall amounts,” she said. Smith’s Rapid City office produces weather forecasts for weather.gov for the three counties of northeastern Wyoming as well as most of western South Dakota. They work with offices in Aberdeen and Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Grand Forks and Bismarck, North Dakota, as well as offices in Nebraska and Wyoming.
“We have to use all the data we have,” she said. Currently, reports in northwestern South Dakota and southwestern North Dakota, for example, are rare. “Over the past seven days, between Plevna, Montana and southwest Bison, South Dakota, or southern Harding County to Dickinson, there haven’t been many reports. This is an area huge where the weather can vary considerably.
“We tend to have a lot of spotters in Rapid City, but in all these rural areas it’s so important to get that information. This helps to delineate these lines for the drought monitor and other available information.
Smith said if a person can’t report every day, they can report “multi-day events” so they report that “in the past 3-4 days” they received x amount of moisture – or not at all.
“It’s best to do it all year round but, really, from March when the herbs should be growing – that makes a big difference,” she said.
“We really need people to report every day, even if there is no precipitation, because lack of precipitation is just as important as too much. And if you’re not able to report every day, there are ways to still be an observer and your information can still be used,” she said.