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Bitter Cold, Snowy Winter Likely

Much of North Dakota is predicted to have a cooler and wetter than normal winter.

U.S. Winter Outlook 2016-17: Temperature If you don’t like the weather now, just wait a few minutes. -- Mark Twain

Unfortunately for us, the reverse of this saying holds true too: If you LIKE the weather now, just wait a few minutes.

Everyone likes the weather we are having now. It’s November and we can take a pleasant walk outside. My kids are wearing shorts and playing soccer. This is going to change.

The world’s leading climate organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a harsher than normal winter for us in North Dakota.

The NOAA has reissued a La Niña watch, predicting the phenomenon has a 70% chance of developing this season and a 55% chance of persisting through winter.

La Niña is the cooling of waters in tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean (El Niño is the warming of waters). This cooling influences rainfall patterns in the region, which in turn, affects weather patterns everywhere. Its effects are strongest during winter when the jet stream is strongest over the USA.

U.S. Winter Outlook 2016-17: Precipitation

For us in the Northern Great Plains, this leads to colder and stormier than normal conditions.

How does this affect us as gardeners? Be prepared for winter extremes. Don’t forget to mulch your tender roses, perennials and strawberries. Marginally hardy trees may suffer some dieback of branch tips.

This is a gentle reminder that we live in a harsh place. We live in Hardiness Zones 3 and 4 (our average extreme winter temps range from –20 to –40°F). Next spring when you are tempted to buy a peach or magnolia tree, think again. Mother Nature is a powerful force.

There is a silver lining to this stormy forecast. Freezing cold temps have their benefits. Many insect pests that spend their winter here in tree cavities and soil will freeze to death. Our best defense against invasive pests such as emerald ash borer and Japanese beetle is our brutal winter. I always hope for a couple weeks of frigid cold temps to destroy these pests!

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, November 7, 2016. 

Source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 2016. U.S. winter outlook predicts warmer, drier South and cooler, wetter North. U.S. Department of Commerce: Washington DC.

Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and United States Department of Agriculture.


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