The National Drought Monitor has expanded moderate drought conditions father east across the northern Red River Valley into northwest Minnesota. Severe Drought covers the far western Devils Lake Basin. Despite recent rainfall, the top soil is extremely dry, and sub soil conditions are getting quite dry as well.
Over the past month, rainfall has generally been well below normal. Rainfalls vary from less than one half an inch in parts of the central Red River Valley, to one and one half inches across the north, and two inches in the south. Due to the late season rain and snow in the far southern Red River Valley, conditions are not quite as dry. Based on data supplied by the offices of the North Dakota and Minnesota State Climatologists, this is as little as one fifth the amount required for the start of the growing season. In the central and northern Red River Valley, the past 40 days rank in the lowest 2 percent for total moisture needs. Based on data from the UND/NWS climate station, Grand Forks is current experiencing the 9th driest May on record, and the 9th driest April through May (to date) period.
Also, while not critically low, the main stem Red River is generally flowing lower and slower than average for this time of year. At Fargo, the Red River is about 80 percent of normal, while at East Grand Forks its about 52 percent of normal. In Drayton, the Red River is about 46 percent of normal. Meanwhile, several of the Red River tributaries are extremely low; the Maple river at Hope ND is about 11 percent of normal while the Marsh River at Shelly MN is about 12 percent of normal.
A storm system is forecast to bring rain to the region over the weekend. Early estimates show that one half to one inch of rain may fall, with isolated two inch rain amounts possible. While this will go a very long way to helping replenish top soil moisture, and giving crops a much needed drink, more will be needed to help with sub soil moisture and longer term agricultural needs.
The National Drought Monitor is a joint effort of the National Weather Service, the State Offices of Climatologists, US Geological Survey, the USDA and NASA. For more information, please visit the National Drought Monitor. Or call you National Weather Service at 701.772.0720 or contact Mark Ewens at the NWS in Grand Forks.