72% of Minnesota is now in severe drought

Rain chances stay limited as the return of hot weather accelerates dry conditions.

Parkgoers look at a waterfall.
Parkgoers explore Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis Wednesday. The creek’s water levels are unusually low due to the ongoing drought.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The drought continues to worsen across Minnesota, and the hot, mostly dry conditions forecast through the end of July provide no relief to the dire situation. 

The latest drought monitor came out Thursday morning with data compiled through Tuesday, and although not surprising, the news is not good. 

Just in the past week, severe drought has expanded from 52 percent of Minnesota up to 72 percent of the state. This is especially startling given that at the start of June less than 1 percent of the state had any severe drought areas. 

weather graphic
Drought monitor released Thursday morning
U.S. Drought Monitor

The state also saw the more intense “extreme” drought category for the first time last week since a very tiny area back in April (less than 1 percent), and that too saw a major jump from less that 4 percent last week to almost 19 percent currently.

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The drought expansion means more watering restrictions are likely around the state, further heightens problems surrounding crops and feeding livestock, and continues to increase the already elevated fire danger.

Thursday’s forecast

On Wednesday our wind pattern shifted, changing to a southerly wind flow, which both cut off the smoke coming in from Canadian fires and started dispersing the smoke already in Minnesota. 

Winds continue to come in from the south Thursday, and the air quality across the state has already improved noticeably versus the past two days. However, that flow also pulls in warmer, more humid air. 

Most of Minnesota started Thursday in the 60s and 70s. Highs will be predominantly in the 90s west and 80s east. 

weather graphic
Thursday high temperatures
National Weather Service

For most of the state this is significantly warmer than Wednesday both because of the warmer wind pattern, but also due to more sunshine. For example, International Falls only made it to 67 under smoky skies Wednesday but should make it back into the 80s Thursday under more sun (the average high is currently 78).

A disturbance is moving across the state as of Thursday morning, bringing some very spotty showers and storms, particularly to northern Minnesota.

weather graphic
8:20 a.m. Thursday radar
National Weather Service

This instability moves into Wisconsin by afternoon, taking most of the rain chances with it, although some precipitation could linger into the afternoon around the Arrowhead. Significant rainfall is not expected. 

Extended forecast

The hot and humid trend continues Friday, with even more of Minnesota making it into the 90s.
A cold front moves through the state Friday, bringing a statewide chance for showers and storms, particularly Friday evening and overnight, including for the Twin Cities.

Much of the activity will be scattered, and northern Minnesota is likely to see the best chance for accumulating rainfall. That is also the area most likely to see a few severe storms, with high winds and large hail the primary threat.

weather graphic
Severe risk Friday/Friday night
National Weather Service

The weekend turns drier again, but there will be enough instability back by the middle of next week for a few showers and storms to develop again. None of this currently looks like any sort of soaking rain that would help with the drought situation. 

Meanwhile highs are forecast to remain predominantly in the 90s, with a few 80s north all of next week. A couple isolated 100s in western or southern Minnesota are also possible. 
Here is that forecast for the Twin Cities through Monday:

weather graphic
Twin Cities forecast through Monday
National Weather Service

The combination of heat, which dries vegetation faster, and lower-than-average precipitation means the drought will continue to worsen over the upcoming week.

Programming note

You can hear my live weather updates on Minnesota Public Radio at 7:48 a.m. Monday through Friday morning.