Extremely Dry Conditions Grip Minnesota's Growing Season Again

Graph of May 15 - August 31 precipitation
Rainfall accumulated from May 15 through August 31, compared to previous record low, normal, and record high values, for Minnesota's five first-order climate stations.
Image credit: Minnesota State Climatology Office

Originally posted in June 2023, updated December 27, 2023

A fast-hitting bout of record dryness during May and June 2023 allowed drought conditions to build back into Minnesota for the third straight year. Dry conditions dominated the state through August and into September, before being stalled out by bizarrely wet conditions.

After a snowy winter with extreme wetness from November 2022 through mid-April 2023, the vast majority of Minnesota slid quickly into an extraordinary dry spell. With the exception of a significant heavy rainfall and flooding event in southern Minnesota in mid-May, and a few isolated downpours that affected less than 1% of the state at a time, most locations received less than half of their normal precipitation from the beginning of May through June. July and August were not much better, with a few instances of heavy rain and strong thunderstorms, but mounting deficits across the state.

The period from May 15 through August 31 was among the driest on record at each of Minnesota's five "first-order" climate observing stations, three of which have 130 years of observation or more. This is a remarkable feat, indicating the breadth and the intensity of the dryness. Rochester and the Twin Cities had less than half of their normal precipitation during this time, with St. Cloud and Duluth coming in with only slightly more than 50% of normal precipitation.

The excessive dryness brought another statewide drought to Minnesota, with the worst drought categories showing up in far southern to southeastern Minnesota, and in a small area west of Duluth and Cloquet. Both of these areas reached "D4" or "Exceptional Drought," which is the highest level of drought designated by the US Drought Monitor. Conditions improved some during late September and October, but 2023 closed with drought or abnormally dry conditions covering all but a tiny fraction of Minnesota.


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