Seeley discusses weather effect on farming

NEW ULM – A University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water and Climate Professor talked about Minnesota drought and climate trends Friday at a Hot Topics Lunch at the New Ulm Country Club.

Climatologist and meteorologist Mark Seeley said Minnesota climate change consequences on agriculture are a mixture of good and bad news.

“We’re not operating in the same environment our predecessors did,” Seeley said. “While it was different the past few springs, we don’t get an early planting start this year. We’re getting a very gradual thaw. The other shoe is about to drop. We’re facing three low-pressure (forecast) models from now through next Wednesday.”

A partial list of effects includes longer growing seasons, later fall nitrogen fall application dates, greater opportunities for invasive insects and pathogens (bacteria, diseases and micro-organisms), more freeze/thaw cycles that damage roads, longer mold and allergy seasons, more heat advisories/warnings, soil erosion, impair waters and flood mitigation issues.

While the National Weather Service predicts the drought covering MInnesota will be erased by June 30, 2013. Seeley said such an event would require area rainfall of four to five inches above normal in this area, and more than that in southwest Minnesota.

One man at the discussion said he heard reports of shallow wells going dry in the Worthington area.

“The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had the most well interference issues last year it has had since 1988,” Seeley said. “Last year was unusual in many ways including 11 flood and drought disasters declarations for the same counties in the same year. Southeastern Minnesota has had three 1,000-year floods in the last 17 years.”

Seeley said average annual precipitation in the New Ulm area averaged 27.97 inches from 1951 through 1980. Since 1980, average annual rainfall in New Ulm has been 30.29 inches.

He said weather data created by Minnesota’s individual weather observers show a warmer and more humid climate especially during the winter.

“God bless Minnesota’s weather observers,” Seeley said. “They give us lots of good data to work with.”

Last Memorial Day, Moorhead recorded a 97 degree F temperature and 88 percent humidity, making it the hottest place on earth with a 134 heat index, Seeley said. Voyageurs National Park, east of International Falls, on the Canadian border – usually a location with cooler, dryer weather – recordede a 116 heat index the same day.

Seeley said 47 of 48 states in the country last year recorded their warmest or nearly warmest year ever in 2012, by a large margin, when average temperatures were computed. Washington state was the only exception. Last year’s drought that gripped much of the nation, was comparable to 1936, he added.

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Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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