Climatologist: Fast rain may cause more problems than help

Published 5:47 pm Friday, August 27, 2021

By Cathy Wurzer and Matt Mikus

Minnesota Public Radio News

It may be pouring rain in parts of central Minnesota and the southern part of the state. But we may be getting too much too fast, and it might not be enough to help us get out of the drought.

“This is clearly the wettest period of the year, for many of our climate stations in Minnesota,” retired University of Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley said.

With most of the rain falling on the southern and central parts of the state, it may help to put some dent in the drought conditions. But Seeley added that those regions are mainly only in moderate or severe drought.

“What’s going to happen is it’s going to give a mixed total across the state,” Seeley said. “The other disconcerting feature of the storms we’ve been having is that they’ve been missing or only sparsely hitting the northern third of the state, which is where most of the extreme and exceptional drought is located.”

The rain on recent days can also result in flash flooding, even in the midst of a drought. Seeley said that’s not common, but it can occur periodically.

“In arguably the worst drought in Minnesota history back in 1910, northern Minnesota climate stations had a 3-inch rainfall on July 23 that caused some flash flooding.”

Seeley added that the drought in 1936 brought flash flooding to Goodhue and Nicollet counties on Aug. 28. In 2012, when 57 counties were declared for drought disaster, terrible flash flooding on the Cannon River and Vermillion River in southeastern Minnesota.

An August climate summary

Temperature patterns for the state were warmer than normal by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees, and Seeley noted that there were many days in August where the northern part of the state provided the warmest temperatures.

“International Falls set three new daily maximum temperature records, and Cotton up in St. Louis County set eight new maximum temperature records during the month of August.” he said. “Off the charts for their climate history. They had more sun up there, and the high-pressure system seemed to affect northern Minnesota much more this month.”