Drought deepens: River levels approaching record lows in Minnesota

Our rivers will likely get even lower. Less than 1 inch of rain for much of Minnesota in the next week.

Mississippi River at St. Paul webcam
Mississippi River at St. Paul webcam
City of St. Paul

It’s another sign of the deepening drought of 2021 in Minnesota. River levels are approaching record lows in parts of Minnesota.

The St. Croix River hydrograph at Stillwater, Minn. shows the river level at 75.48 feet Wednesday. That’s just a few inches above the record low river level of 75.10 feet recorded in 1988.

St. Croix River at Stillwater
St. Croix River at Stillwater
NOAA/North Central River Forecast Center

The Mississippi River at St. Paul is running at 3.2 feet Wednesday. That’s a few inches above the record low of 2.6 feet set in 1976.

Mississippi River at St. Paul
Mississippi River at St. Paul
NOAA/North Central River Forecast Center

You can see how much the river flow level (discharge) has dropped in recent months on the 1-year flow chart from the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

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Mississippi River at St. Paul flow over the past year
Mississippi River at St. Paul flow over the past year
USGS

Downstream, the Mississippi River at Red Wing, Minn. is also near the record low of 1.8 feet set in 2003. It’s running at just 2.2 feet Wednesday.

Mississippi River at Red Wing
Mississippi River at Red Wing
NOAA/North Central River Forecast Center

Rainfall outlook bleak for now

There are spotty thunderstorms in the forecast through Thursday. There’s a better chance for more rainfall coverage Sunday. But keep in mind it takes more widespread prolonged rainfall to boost river levels significantly.

Looking ahead, most forecast models suggest (way) less than an inch of rain across most of Minnesota in the next week. Some lucky spots may pick up an inch or more, but coverage on that magnitude of rainfall appears to be limited.

The European model rainfall output for the next week looks drier than average for most areas.

European model (ECMWF) precipitation output
European model (ECMWF) precipitation output through 7 a.m. June 30
ECMWF via pivotal weather

June is the wettest month of the year on average for Minnesota. Average rainfall for June is more than an inch per week. I’m still not seeing a pattern that will deliver consistent rains anytime soon.

I’m getting very concerned this drought could be one of the deepest on record for parts of Minnesota if this pattern continues for a few more weeks.