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Drought conditions worsen in North Dakota, Minnesota

WDAY Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler said that had such conditions existed in June and July "it would have been tragic" for crops in the region. But coming at this point in the fall, negative impacts have been greatly reduced, said Wheeler, who added that one thing gardeners may want to do is provide young trees with a hardy watering before things freeze up.

A low, brown river winds between banks covered in brown grass.
The Maple River winds through farmland north of West Fargo on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — Dry conditions that began intensifying across the region in October have persisted and turned even more arid.

Maps available on the U.S. Drought Monitor website show that as of Monday, Nov. 1, many areas of southeast North Dakota, including Cass County, as well as the western edge of Clay County in Minnesota, are experiencing severe drought.

Much of west-central Minnesota was listed as experiencing moderate drought.

A map of North Dakota shows severe drough on the western and southeastern parts of the state, moderate drought across most of the rest of the state, and abnormally dry conditions in the far northeast corner and a small swath of the southwest part of the state.
Contributed / U.S. Drought Monitor.

WDAY Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler said Thursday that if such conditions existed in June and July, "it would have been tragic" for crops in the region.

But coming at this point in the fall, negative impacts have been greatly reduced, said Wheeler, who added that gardeners may want to provide young trees with a hardy watering before things freeze up.

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Wheeler said the last time the Fargo-Moorhead area received significant rainfall was Aug. 26, when 0.37 inches fell.

A map of Minnesota shows extreme drought across the south-central part of the state, severe drought around the extreme drought and the west-central border of the state, moderate drought covering the rest of southern and west-central Minnesota, and abnormally dry conditions across central Minnesota and far northwestern and north-central parts of the state.
Contributed / U.S. Drought Monitor.

One indication of how dry it has been is the period from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, which was the fourth driest in Fargo for that time period since such records started in 1881, he said.

The region could see periods of rain or snow next week when the jet stream is expected to flow out of the southwest instead of the northwest, Wheeler said. That could bring moist air and possibly stormy weather to the region, he added.

Adnan Akyüz, North Dakota state climatologist, said the worsening drought conditions were concerning, but it was too early to know whether dry conditions will be an issue for planting in the spring.

Conditions were similar going into winter last year, he said, and some drought conditions ended up being relieved somewhat by winter moisture.

Akyüz said he anticipates something similar could happen this winter, given that another La Niña winter is likely.

Typically, La Niña winters in North Dakota are marked by weather that is cooler and wetter than normal.

The present dry conditions in Minnesota prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this week to issue burning restrictions in many counties across the state .

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On Sunday, Oct. 30, a man in Wilkin County died fighting a fast-moving grass fire.

The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center noted on Tuesday, Nov. 2, that it had received more than 25 reports of active wildfires throughout the state. Strong gusty winds, warm temperatures and low relative humidity produced near-critical fire weather conditions throughout much of the state, contributing to fire danger and increased reports of wildfires.

The largest concentration of wildfires was in the central region of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metro area, where persistent drought has been building since this summer.

Akyüz said parts of western North Dakota, which have experienced drought conditions for going on three years, are in need of having soil moisture recharged, as ranching and haying operations are hurting.

However, as bad as the situation is in western North Dakota, Akyüz said the drought conditions have yet to match the drought years of the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s.

"I am not saying that that's never going to happen again, but they are very rare events, especially in North Dakota," Akyüz said.

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