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Taylor: Central Iowa dry, frost line twice as deep as normal

By Staff | Feb 21, 2014

Elwynn Taylor, ISU climatologist

FORT?DODGE – With a lack of snow cover, the repeated Polar breakouts this winter have plunge the frost lines to twice their normal depths, said Elwynn Taylor, during a Feb. 10 weather outlook meeting in Dakota City.

The U.S. drought map shows that all or portions of the counties of Webster, Calhoun, Sac, Carroll, Greene, Boone, Story, Dallas and Polk are in severe drought conditions.

This region, which averages about 30 inches of rain annually, was short 5 inches in 2013.

As a consequence of the light snow cover, the frost line is down below the 2-foot level.

On Feb. 10, Taylor said, the temperature readings at 4 inches was 22 degrees; 23 degrees at 12 inches; 28 degrees at 24 inches and 34 degrees at 50 inches.

This bodes poorly for soil to soak in spring rains without a blanket of snow 6 to 8 inches deep to insulate and draw the warmer temps upward to thaw fields so they can soak in snow melt.

As a result, without an extended dry warming trend, snow melt and any rain will flow off fields, and early flooding this spring will result.

“Iowa is the only state that measures its water quantity under crop ground,”?Taylor said. “All others measure under pastures.”

The dry subsoil profile and deep frost line pose as Central Iowa’s first line of risk for the 2014 crop, Taylor said.

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