The Big Melt

After more than a month of extreme cold and heavy snow, the Heartland will enjoy a warming trend over the coming week. Our change in fortune is due to a rebound in the jet stream, which will keep the frigid air in Canada and guide Pacific storms across the northern tier of States. In Missouri, we expect highs in the mid 40s to lower sixties (F) through the end of the week and our deep snow pack should all but disappear under a strengthening mid-February sun.

Unfortunately, the frozen ground and dormant vegetation will not absorb this copious moisture and flooding is sure to result. This, of course, is the typical pattern in late winter and early spring, as swollen rivers and streams spill across their floodplains, setting the stage for human misery.

But the flooded landscape is a welcome sight to migrant waterfowl. Led by snow geese, pintails and wintering ducks in late February, this parade of migrants will extend through March, April and early May as Canada geese, resident ducks, loons, grebes, white pelicans, cormorants and shorebirds join the exodus to northern breeding grounds. Along the way, they will stop to rest and feed on our flooded fields and seasonal lakes, drawing hordes of naturalists down the muddy trails and back roads of America's Midwest.