Spring weather is heating up

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
— Forget astronomical calendars and the arbitrary timelines associated with a rodent's prediction in early February.

Spring is here, and it's early enough that area farmers should get a head start on their fieldwork and spring planting.

If this week's forecast holds, Janesville will see record high temperatures today, Thursday and Friday.

That would punctuate the warmest March 11-17 in 64 years of Gazette recordkeeping as determined by heating degree-days, an accumulation of the daily difference between the mean temperature and 65 degrees.

This week's forecast calls for a total of 34 degree-days. If that holds, this week would be the warmestóby faróof any March 11-17 period in the last 64 years.

The next warmest was in 1990, with 95.5 degree-days. The coldest was March 11-17, 1993, when Janesville tallied a whopping 324.5 degree-days and the daily highs averaged only 29 degrees.

This week, daily highs are expected to average 71 degrees.

The forecast by the National Weather Service in Sullivan calls for highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s today through Monday.

AccuWeather picks up the forecast from there and generally predicts highs in the 50s and lows in the upper 30s through March 27.

The current crop of beautiful weather is warming and drying soil, which will give local farmers the opportunity to prep fields and plant earlier than normal, said Jim Stute, UW Extension crops and soils agent for Rock County.

Warm weather in February and March typically is a concern because it's often followed by cold weather that injures or kills plants.

That doesn't appear to be the case this year.

"Winter wheat and alfalfa have broken their dormancy and are starting to grow and green up," Stute said Tuesday. "Here we are on March 13, and the forecast for as far as we can see is for nice weather."

Each day of nice weather warms the soil and adds to a buffer that would mitigate a short cold snap, he said.

Nice weather also dries the soil, which should allow farmers an earlier entry to their fields for prep work.

Planting, too, likely will be earlier than average, Stute said.

Alfalfa seeding could be done as early as April, a couple of weeks early, he said. Corn could be in by the middle of April, when it's typically planted by May 1. Soybeans will be planted next, and they, too, likely will go in early.

Stute said farmers generally have expressed some concern over soil moisture, particularly with drought conditions to the west and in Minnesota and a less-than-average winter snow pack.

"The heavy snow at the end of February really helped that, and the melt should help recharge the river transportation system," he said.

Stute said that Monday's rain of 0.3 inches was timely because the ground is now thawed and precipitation soaks in rather than running off.

Last updated: 7:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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