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Good Question: Does April Snow Help The Drought?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – With all the snow we’ve seen this winter, it’s hard to believe that Minnesota is in a severe drought.

There’s lots of moisture out there in the form of snow, but most of it runs off to streams and rivers when the snow melts, because the ground is frozen.

But does getting a lot of wet snow in April help with the drought?

“We’ll take moisture in any form at this point,” said Pete Boulay, the assistant state climatologist.

But before Boulay could tell if the snow was helping or not, he tested the soil to see if it had thawed.

He pulled a device called a frost tube out from ground near the University of Minnesota farm fields, and the top four inches of water in the tube were liquid. The lack of a warm-up has kept the ground frozen, that is, until this week.

“And this is important, because now we have four inches of thawed soil, so the water can get into the ground, finally. Before that, it was all running off into the streams,” Boulay said.

So, yes. Thursday’s snow was the first snow that actually made a dent in the drought.

But isn’t it better just to get heavy rain?

“Snow is probably better,” Boulay said. “You get a longer chance to get that into the ground.”

Bare soil, Boulay said, tends to defrost earlier than soil with grass on top of it, because the grass serves as a shield, keeping the sunlight and heat from hitting the frost below.

“We have 5 feet of soil that we need to replenish the moisture in. Right now, we’re only replenishing about [4 inches] of it,” Boulay said.

He said we need it to warm up, so the soil defrosts, and we need a wet spring to try to recharge the soil to make it good for growing.

Maybe a couple more six-inch April snowfalls?

“That would help, that would do it,” Boulay laughed.

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