Soggy silver lining: Drought erased from Minnesota

76 percent of Minnesota was in drought last fall; now nearly zero

U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota
U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota.
U.S. Department of Agriculture / University of Nebraska-Lincoln

People who know me know I’m usually mining the silver linings in our rigorous Minnesota weather. That’s been a pretty tough process lately. But I’ve dug up a pretty big, shiny silver lining in this post.

Our seemingly endless wet weather pattern has erased the widespread severe drought that gripped most of Minnesota last year.

The deep drought produced low water levels in lakes and rivers across Minnesota. It also fueled damaging wildfires up north.

A person runs behind a fire truck with fire and smoke all around.
Firefighters battle a wildfire in August 2021 near Greenwood Lake in the Superior National Forest of northeastern Minnesota.
Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, via AP

Big turnaround

Last fall, 93 percent of Minnesota was abnormally dry or worse; 76 percent of the state was in the grips of drought.

U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota September 28
U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota Sept. 28, 2021.
U.S. Department of Agriculture / University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A full 50 percent of our state was in severe or extreme drought.

Drought statistics for Minnesota pm
Drought statistics for Minnesota

Fast-forward to April 2022.

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This week’s latest U.S. Drought Monitor report for Minnesota shows the drought has been erased across Minnesota. A couple of small, slightly dry zones hang by a finger on this week’s map update.

U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota
U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota.

Rising rivers and lakes

Our excessive April precipitation is boosting rivers and lake levels across Minnesota. MPR News climate expert Mark Seeley points out this week that this April will fall among the top 10 coldest and wettest statewide for Minnesota.

Except for southwestern Minnesota, all regions of the state reported above normal precipitation for the month, most especially in northwestern and north-central counties. Extremes for the month range from well over 7 inches of precipitation in sections of northern Minnesota to just under an inch in some far southwestern sections of the state. April of 2022 will rank among the ten wettest in state history on a statewide basis. Most climate observers reported well over 3 inches for the month, while portions of Koochiching, Beltrami, and Red Lake Counties reported over 7 inches, and many areas along the north shore of Lake Superior had over 6 inches.

The excessive precipitation has caused flood problems in northwest Minnesota. It’s also boosted river and lake levels in southern Minnesota.

For example, the water level in Lake Minnetonka is up nearly a foot since early March.

Lake Minnetonka water level
Lake Minnetonka water level
Minnehaha Creek Watershed District

Warmer days ahead

The medium-range forecast models continue to favor significantly warmer weather in the next 1-2 weeks. Most forecast models suggest sunnier days with highs moving into the 60s next week across the Upper Midwest.

Forecast high temperatures Friday
Forecast high temperatures next Friday
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System model is cranking out a more sustained warmup for the second week of May with highs well into the 70s, and possibly near 80 degrees.

NOAA GFS model temperature outlook
NOAA GFS model temperature outlook for 1 p.m. on May 11
NOAA, via Pivotal Weather

Stay tuned.