Minnehaha Creek is gone: Twin Cities, SW Minnesota now in extreme drought

Lake Minnetonka at lowest level in 10 years

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

Thursday’s updated U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota shows extreme drought has returned to the Twin Cities and parts of southern Minnesota.

The extreme drought area (in red above) covers most of the central and southern Twin Cities southwest along the Minnesota River to the northeast of Mankato near St. Peter. Extreme drought also covers parts of southwestern Minnesota centered on Lyon County and Marshall.

Severe and moderate drought areas surround the extreme drought zone. And the total land area in Minnesota that is now abnormally dry or in drought status is now 77.4 percent. That’s up from just over 54 percent last week.

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

More than 3.8 million Minnesotans now live in the abnormally dry or drought zone.

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Lakes and rivers drying up

Rainfall deficits are now running more than 8 inches below average this year in the Twin Cities.

Ponds, rivers, lakes and other surface waters are drying up quickly in the dry and warm late summer and autumn weather patterns.

Lake Minnetonka is at its lowest level since the drought of 2012 according to this week’s drought monitor update.

Large precipitation deficits dating back 120 days support a large expansion of D0-D2 coverage throughout Minnesota. Lake Minnetonka in Hennepin County is down to its lowest level since the 2012 drought.

Lake Minnetonka
Low water levels were easy to see Monday on Lake Minnetonka.
Paul Huttner | MPR News

Minnehaha Creek is bone dry in many areas.

Little rainfall in sight

The forecast for the Upper Midwest shows a dry bias for the next one to two weeks. The upper-air pattern across North America favors mostly northwest flow for Minnesota. That will bring us some cooler air invasions from time to time, but likely very little rainfall.

NOAA GFS upper air forecast
NOAA Global Forecast System upper-air forecast for Oct. 22
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, via Tropical Tidbits

Both the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and American medium-range forecast models suggest little to no rainfall for Minnesota through at least the next 10 days.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System model total precipitation output into Oct. 22 suggests most of Minnesota could stay dry.

NOAA GFS precipitation output
NOAA GFS precipitation output into October 22.
NOAA, via Pivotal Weather

With no significant rainfall in sight, Minnesota’s drought is likely to deepen further in the next month. If we don’t flip the pattern into wet mode before the freeze-up in November, we may be dealing with serious drought issues next spring as we approach the 2023 growing season.

Stay tuned.