Drought conditions are worsening throughout most of Minnesota, and a monster ridge of high pressure that is baking the Pacific Northwest with record-breaking heat is poised to expand and deliver another unwanted blow of warming temps to Minnesota by the Fourth of July.
NOAA's National Integrated Drought Information System updated drought conditions across the country on Thursday and has nearly 83% of Minnesota experiencing moderate drought, which is the first of four major drought categories.
More drastic drought, categorized as severe drought – the second of the four categories – can been seen in the map below via the orange-shaded areas. Approximately 11% of Minnesota is in severe drought, which is an improvement from 14% the previous week.
Very few places in Minnesota saw drought conditions improve ever-so-slightly this past week, namely a narrow band in south-central and southeastern Minnesota where heavy rain fell last weekend. A sliver of the Twin Cities also improved slightly as just shy of an inch of precipitation fell June 26-28.
Making drought conditions more worrisome is the NWS saying the "long term period is looking very quiet, not a good thing for those who missed out on the rain in the last several days."
However, there is hope for thunderstorms during the afternoon and night this Sunday, July 4. Where and when storms are possible remains in question. Anything beyond Sunday precipitation-wise is unclear.
The Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service expects temps will remain "quite warm" to begin July, with highs in the 90s expected this Saturday-Monday before a slight cool down is possible early next week.
"What we don't know is how bad it's going to get or how long it's going to last," said Kenny Blumenfeld, state climatologist, on the latest episode of the Way Over Our Heads podcast.
Forecasting beyond a handful of days can be dangerous, but meteorologist Sven Sundgaard said in his Thursday video brief for Bring Me The News that models are hinting at triple-digit heat in Minnesota in mid-July. As Sundgaard notes in the video, many forecasters in the Pacific Northwest didn't believe the models when they were projecting record-breaking heat that became reality this past week.
The dry and hot weather can be devastating for farmers. A corn and soybean farmer near Spring Valley in southern Minnesota told ABC 6 News that "this is the driest spring I've seen," noting that mid-July will be a critical period for corn and that early August is the critical time for soybeans.
The National Integrated Drought Information System said Tuesday that spring conditions for wheat and barley in the northern U.S. are facing a "grim situation as both are well worse than anytime in the last 20 years."
Minnesota produces the 7th-most wheat and barley in the U.S., according to Beef 2 Live. Meanwhile, North Dakota yields more than 17% of the nation's annual wheat and barley output and is facing more extreme drought conditions than Minnesota.
Minnesota saw 12 days of at least 90 degrees in June, which went down as the second-hottest June in Twin Cities history. Extreme heat waves, such as the record-breaking "heat dome" that baked the Pacific Northwest with temps greater than 120 degrees this past week, are among a number of climate change-related unusual weather events in the United States this year.