More rain is on the way — but it might not break the drought

Drought report released Thursday morning
U.S. Drought Monitor/USDA/NOAA/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows that the drought in Minnesota only got worse last week. Almost all of northern Minnesota is now deemed to be in extreme or exceptional drought, and nearly the whole state is affected by moderate to severe drought.

The good news: There is substantial rain on the way. Heavy thunderstorms moved through Minnesota today, and the weather may remain wet into next week. But will it be enough to break the drought?

Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, isn’t sure.

Last week, there were a couple of inches of rain in the worst-hit areas of northwestern Minnesota, but “the drought is so entrenched and these rainfall deficits are so large” that there wasn’t much of a change, Blumenfeld told host Cathy Wurzer.

“Any precipitation is good,” according to Blumenfeld, but “if you get it all at once, basically the majority of it after the first couple inches just runs off and only replenishes the streams and lakes, and you end up with flash flooding.”

Blumenfeld said we need sustained, above-normal precipitation for several months to pull out of the drought in Minnesota: “Rather than a big, cataclysmic rain, I would prefer — and I think everyone would prefer — to see some steady rains.” 

“You need the water to soak into the ground, get into the soil, start recharging those aquifers and also replenish the streams and lakes,” Blumenfeld said.

Looking ahead, long-range models are unclear about how much precipitation we’ll get months down the line, but shorter-term models suggest that “over the next month … we have a shot at this wet pattern sticking around,” Blumenfeld said.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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