Wettest winter on record erased drought in eastern Minnesota

Moderate drought lingers across western Minnesota.

U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota
U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota. Comparison of the past 2 weeks.

“It takes a flood to end a drought.” -Mark Twain

Mark Twain is credited with some astute weather quotes. And while we may not have a flood yet in most of Minnesota, the amount of moisture we’ve received this winter has reached record levels across most of our state.

This was the wettest meteorological winter on record for most of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. The regions with a 1 indicate the wettest winter on record going back to 1893.

Winter precipitation ranking
Winter precipitation ranking.
NOAA via Iowa Emergency Management

There’s now 2 to 6 inches of water sitting in the snowpack across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Check out the 6.5-inch Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) reading near Hayward, Wisconsin.

Snow water equivalent
Snow water equivalent as of March 2, 2023.

Spring melt rates matter

Because the ground is still mostly frozen, most of that water still has yet to be “realized” in soils across Minnesota.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Here’s more detail from the Midwest discussion in this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor.

This has been a particularly wet winter for the Upper Midwest. But previous months, especially last summer, were dry and hot, which dried the soils. As winter set in, the soils froze and the dry condition was locked into place. The soils in the Upper Midwest are still frozen, so the benefits of the recent precipitation, which is laying as a deep snow cover, won’t be realized until the soils thaw and the snow meltwater soaks into the ground.

A faster melt will send more of that water in our snowpack into rivers and lakes. A slower melt will allow more to soak into gradually thawing soils.

Forecast: More moisture ahead Sunday and Monday

Our weather pattern looks mostly quiet into early Sunday. A little freezing fog may occur Friday morning.

Highs Friday and Saturday will thaw into the 30s across most of Minnesota.

Forecast high temperatures Saturday
Forecast high temperatures Saturday.

By Sunday, our next sloppy weather system approaches. This one looks warm enough for a slushy-type snowfall. Models vary right now, it could be a slushy inch or two, to a few inches of wet March snow.

NOAA’s GFS model loop below gives you an idea of potential rain and snow zones between 6 am Sunday and noon Monday.

NOAA GFS model
NOAA GFS model between 6 am Sunday and noon Monday.
NOAA via tropical tidbits

The European model is one of several that lay out another soaking shot of moisture Sunday and Monday.

European model (ECMWF) precipitation output
European model (ECMWF) precipitation output through Monday.
ECMWF via pivotal weather

The NOAA March temperature outlook favors colder-than-average temperatures this month.

30-day temperature outlook
30-day temperature outlook.

But it’s interesting to note that NOAA’s CFS2 longer-range temperature outlooks favor warmer than average temperatures for the month of April.

30-day temperature outlook 2
30-day temperature outlook.

A warmer-than-average April for Minnesota? A (weather) guy can dream.

Stay tuned.