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Some Drought Perspectives and Prospects

Some Drought Perspectives and Prospects:

Drought continued to worsen this week across Minnesota despite some spotty light showers in places. Climate observers around Montevideo, Bemidji, Warroad, Breckenridge, and Park Rapids actually reported rainfall amounts close to 1 inch this week, but those were exceptions. Most areas received very little rainfall. Temperatures averaged 2 to 4°F above normal this week keeping evaporative demand higher than normal.

The US Drought Monitor reported 98 percent of the Minnesota landscape is in the grip of at least Moderate Drought, close to 72 percent is in Severe to Extreme Drought, and 18.5 percent is in Extreme Drought. Many areas of the state are now showing year-to-date precipitation deficiencies of 6 to 10 inches. Symptoms of this persistent weather pattern continue to emerge with crops showing signs of stress 53% of corn and soybean crops are in just poor to fair condition), watering restrictions being advised, higher fire danger, and exceptionally low flows in some rivers and streams.

Aggravated by higher-than-normal temperatures as well as expectations for infrequent rainfall further worsening of the drought is expected for the remainder of July and August. Further, almost all of the tools of the North American Multi-Model Ensemble Outlooks used by NOAA suggest that the drought will linger or even worsen through October. It would probably take the complete opposite climate pattern through October (cooler than normal temperatures and twice normal rainfall) to mitigate the present drought.

Some points worth noting:

Many local units of government are prepping already for a worsening drought.

The 2021 Drought emerged and accelerated during the summer season much like the historical droughts of 1894, 1936, 1976, 1988 (started in summer 1987), and 2006. The drought of 1894 saw recovery by Spring 1896, the drought of 1936 saw recovery by Spring of 1938, the drought of 1976 saw recovery by Summer of 1977, the drought of 1988 saw recovery by Spring of 1991, and the drought of 2006 saw recovery by Autumn of 2007.

But historical drought analogies may not be valid for perspective as our climate is changing so dramatically and fast that any forthcoming shifts in current weather patterns may not closely mimic those of the past.

Of the seven tools used in North American Multi-Model Ensemble Outlooks (NNME), virtually all show higher than normal temperatures prevailing across Minnesota through October of this year (leading to higher evaporation and evapotranspiration rates). Further, only one of the seven tools in the NNME Outlooks for precipitation suggests some improvement across Minnesota for the period through October. Four of the outlooks suggest a somewhat static drier than normal pattern will prevail through October, while two others suggest a near-normal precipitation pattern will prevail through October. Not a good sign.

Should the drought linger through the autumn season, it becomes more likely that it will persist into 2022, because we lose out on the primary soil moisture recharge period for our state (Sep-Nov). In addition, fire danger in the autumn season can become more problematic as low-pressure systems deepen and high pressure systems strengthen, bringing more frequent strong winds and lower humidity to Minnesota.

Readers are encouraged to use the update Drought Condition reports at the DNR web site:

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA features an interesting article by Rebecca Lindsey that describes the incredible Heat Wave in the Pacific Northwest earlier this summer. It was truly record-setting and unprecedented for its amplitude, duration and areal extent. Many scientists have come to the conclusion that it was a once in 1000- year event.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center was tracking Typhoon In-Fa this week, moving east and north of Taiwan. It had sustained winds near 100 mph, producing sea waves between 35-40 feet. The storm is expected to make landfall along the coast of China this weekend.

The Weather Channel and the BBC reported on the devastation and deaths associated with the flooding rains in central China this week. Up to 33 deaths have been blamed on the flooding. Over 30 inches of rain fell in parts of that country near Zhengzhou (about 35 degrees north latitude) within a 72-hour period this week causing dramatic flash flooding. Again, the storm system was similar to that which hit parts of Europe last week in that it was stalled or very slow moving.

Science Daily reports this week on a new study from Lancaster University that reveals how climate change may present a threat to some countries that rely heavily on fisheries to meet their nutritional requirements. “New projections examining more than 800 fish species in more than 157 countries have revealed how two major and growing, pressures -- climate change and over-fishing -- could impact the availability of vital micronutrients from our oceans.”

MPR listener question:

When were the longest droughts in state history recorded?


This is difficult to answer in that there are several hydrological features to consider in determining when a drought is officially over. Since statehood (1858) there have been at least two dozen droughts in Minnesota that have been documented in one form or another. They have varied from months to years in their longevity. Here are some of the longest lasting in Minnesota history: (all did not affect the entire state for the full duration)
Winter 1921 to Summer 1924
Autumn 1930 to Summer 1935
Summer 1936 to Spring 1938
Summer 1987 to Spring 1991

Twin Cities Almanac for July 23rd:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 83 degrees F (plus or minus 7 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 64 degrees F (plus or minus 6 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for July 23rd:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 105 degrees F in 1934; lowest daily maximum temperature of 67 degrees F in 1962; lowest daily minimum temperature of 47 degrees F in 1876; highest daily minimum temperature of 80 degrees F in 1934; record precipitation of 9.15 inches in 1987. No snowfall has occurred on this date.

Average dew point for July 23rd is 61°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 80°F in 2005; and the minimum dew point on this date is 40 degrees F in 1998.

All-time state records for July 23rd:

The state record high temperature for this date is 108 degrees F at Milan (Chippewa County) in 1934. The state record low temperature for this date is 28 degrees F at Kelliher (Beltrami County) in 2002. The state record precipitation for this date is 9.15 inches at MSP (Hennepin County) in 1987. No snowfall on this date.

Past Weather Features:

The morning of July 23, 1925 brought a cold chill to those living in Crow Wing, Itasca, Carlton, and Cass Counties as the morning low temperature dipped into the 30s F. At Grand Rapids the temperature in the morning started out at 36°F but climbed all the way to 84°F by late afternoon.

July 23, 1934 was the hottest in state history as over 40 climate stations reported afternoon high temperatures of 100 degrees F or greater. Four climate stations reported an overnight low of 80°F.

July 23, 1987 brought the greatest rain ever measured to the Twin Cities area. During the evening between 5 and 10 inches of rainfall flooded the roads, highways and interstate system. At one point the rainfall intensity approached 3 inches per hour. Many basements flooded, and a number of cars were abandoned on the highways and interstates.


A more consistently hot weather pattern will settle in over the weekend, with many areas seeing high temperatures from the mid 80s to mid 90s F through much of next week. It will also be generally dry, but with chances for widely scattered showers and thunderstorms Tuesday through Friday.

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tsm said…
don't overlook the drought of 1862-1864. recovery in 1865.
tsm said…
archeological research suggests a several decades long drought in the north american midwest in the 13th century. interestingly this would have corresponded with the medieval warm period in europe.