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No Relief From Dry winter?

January 29, 1998

MINOT, N.D. (AP) _ Farmers and ranchers in north-central and western North Dakota, already alarmed by low soil moisture levels, are anticipating dry weather will continue into the spring.

``I think rightly so that they are concerned,″ said weather scientist Leon Osborne.

``Naturally everybody is concerned,″ said Ward County extension agent Mike Rose. ``Stored soil moisture is like money in the bank, but between now and spring anything could happen.″

A couple of heavy rain showers could make the difference, he said.

Osborne, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of North Dakota and director of the school’s regional weather center, said the weather phenomenon known as El Nino is responsible for the state’s mild winter, but has no relation to the low precipitation levels in some areas.

``The dry conditions that have occurred ... are not associated with El Nino,″ Osborne said. ``There is no correlation between a warm El Nino event and precipitation.″

Osborne said the center has not yet pinpointed the cause of the dry conditions. He expects them to continue in north-central and western North Dakota until about mid-April.

``We may see some snowfall or rain, but indications are that it will remain relatively dry into the spring,″ he said.

On Dec. 1, the precipitation level in northwest North Dakota _ specifically in the Williston area _ was 1.18 inches below the 30-year average for that date.

It takes an average of 15 inches of snow to produce 1 inch of water, National Weather Service officials said.

Minot got 0.06 inches of precipitation in December _ down from the 30-year average for December of 0.72 inches, said Eric Carpenter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

Carpenter said El Nino made December in south-central North Dakota _ specifically in the Bismarck area _ the second-warmest in history. The average temperature in the region in December was 28.3 degrees, compared to the 30-year average for December of 14 degrees.

So far this month, the average temperature in south-central North Dakota is about 1 degree warmer than the 30-year average for January, he said.

El Nino has blocked the northern jet stream and cold temperatures, allowing warmer air streams to move into the Midwest, Carpenter said.

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) _ Kentucky’s secretary of natural resources, meeting with some of his strongest critics, has been told he is regulating in the wrong direction.

Secretary James Bickford and the state’s pig farmers have been at odds for months as his agency has tried to impose tougher regulations on their industry.

``The problem is waste and the impact of that,″ Bickford said, noting reports about the severe environmental consequences of millions of gallons of manure ending up in wells and rivers.

Manure spills from hog farms have been blamed for killing millions of fish in North Carolina and other states.

Animal wastes also carry parasites, bacteria and viruses and can pollute drinking water with high levels of nitrates that can be fatal for infants.

Dennis Liptrap, who raises hogs in Nelson County, Ky., suggested Bickford should worry less about farmers and more about raw human sewage pouring into eastern Kentucky rivers.

Bickford answered that he was working on those problems, too, adding that ``saying ‘everybody else does it’ doesn’t get it.″

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