Parts of Red River Valley in Severe Drought - Update

This drought statement is for deteriorating conditions in portions of Nelson, Grand Forks, Steele, Traill, Griggs, Barnes and Cass counties of eastern North Dakota. The U.S.Drought Monitor indicates severe drought conditions now exist in these areas.

Despite recent rainfalls across sections of the Red River Valley, generally dry weather continues in portions of the region. The greatest precipitation deficits are in the central Valley on the North Dakota side of the Red River. As is common with summertime rainfall, the areas that have received significant precipitation are in better condition and maintaining soil moisture. However, in the severe drought areas, significant and beneficial rainfalls have been very spotty.

Since the first of July many areas across eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota have had less than 50 percent of normal rainfall, with some areas seeing 10 percent or less (See image below).

Drought conditions were alleviated a bit closer to the International border as showers and thunderstorms were more concentrated during the last 2 week period.

Summary of impacts...
Agricultural impacts are beginning to become significant in parts of the region. At a time when the crop water usage is near maximum for many plants, rainfall has not been meeting the demand. Based on information provided by state and federal agencies, the soil moisture in the top 3 feet has a deficit of 50 to 75 percent below normal in the severe drought area. The USDA has rated top-soils between 42 percent short or very short as of July 8th.

Stream-flows on the smaller creeks and tributaries are generally in the lower 25 percent of the long term mean, while some flows are below 10 percent of the mean for this time of year. Based on information from the USGS groundwater monitoring system, subsurface water levels continue to fall with portions of southeast North Dakota approaching the lowest 10 percentile of Normal. Subsurface water levels are down 2 to 4 feet since the first of May 2012.

Some crops are showing significant stress. Sugar beets, soybeans, potatoes and dry edible beans showed an increase in the poor to very poor crop condition category. At this time, specific county information in the severe drought area is not available from the USDA.

Climate summary...
Persistent blocking in the upper atmosphere has lead to the prolonged period of unusually warm and dry weather. As of July 11th, 2012 is the warmest calendar year on record so far for the Fargo area. The average temperature for the period of January 1 through July 15 is 46.3 degrees. The previous warmest calendar year for Fargo was 1987. At the UND/NWS Climate Station it is the 2nd warmest calendar year to date, just 1.1 degrees farenheit behind 1987.

Fargo Area  (ThreadEx Station)
Highest Average Average Temperature degrees F
Days: 1/1 - 7/15
Length of period: 196 days
Years: 1881-2012

Rank  Value  Ending Date
  1    46.3    7/15/2012
  2    45.2    7/15/1987
  3    42.6    7/15/2006
  4    42.5    7/15/1998
  5    42.4    7/15/1931
  6    41.9    7/15/1990,  7/15/1991
  8    41.2    7/15/2010,  7/15/1992
 10    41.1    7/15/1921

Ending Date is the last day of the 196-day period. Only periods with no missing data were evaluated. Data courtesy of the Regional Climate Center Acis.

Highest Average Average Temperature degrees F
Days: 1/1 - 7/15
Length of period: 196 days
Years: 1890-2012

Rank  Value  Ending Date
  1    45.0    7/15/1987
  2    43.9    7/15/2012
  3    43.3    7/15/2006
  4    42.4    7/15/1981
  5    41.8    7/15/1991
  6    41.5    7/15/1990
  7    41.0    7/15/1977,  7/15/1983
  9    40.9    7/15/1988
 10    40.8    7/15/1931

Ending Date is the last day of the 196-day period. Only periods with no missing data were evaluated.
Data courtesy of the Regional Climate Center Acis.

On average, precipitation is 40 percent of normal for east central North Dakota with some areas approaching the lower 25 percent of normal. Although isolated areas have been deluged by thunderstorms, most locations within the severe drought area have missed significant rains. Generally speaking across the region, less than 1.50 inches of rain has fallen in the past month.
AHPS rainfall departure from normal. Click for larger image

The image above is the average departure from normal precipitation for the period July 1 through July 15 2012. The Orange areas are locations that have received between 10% and 25% the normal rain in the 2 week period, while the darker reds indicated less than 10% rain has fallen. Click for a larger image. Data from National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Centers (NCRFCs) Chanhassen MN .

Precipitation/temperature outlook...
The large scale atmospheric patterns remain unchanged. This suggests that the warm and dry weather pattern will continue. The climate outlook for the remainder of July is for above normal temperatures and below median precipitation. A typical summertime pattern will result in widely scattered showers and thunderstorms, however most areas will likely not see enough rainfall to mitigate the current long term drought.

Hydrologic summary and outlook...
As indicated earlier, many smaller streams and tributaries in the severe drought area are nearing or are in the lower 25 percentile of normal. The Maple River near Hope was in low flow condition while near Mapleton it was at 27 percent of median flows. The USGS river data for North Dakota and Minnesota are available here.

The larger rivers including the Sheyenne and Red River are showing a decrease in flows but are not near critical levels at this time. Groundwater levels are decreasing as evapotranspiration and crop water usage increase.

As of July 16th the Red River in Fargo was at 72 percent of normal flow, while at East Grand Forks the Red River was at 45 percent of mean flow. Both of these levels are well within the range of what is considered normal for mid July, but are on a distinct downward trend. However due to the very dry weather, there is an enhanced risk for lower flows than normal along the Red River main stem. The latest outlook from the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services (AHPS) suggest river levels may fall to the lower end of summertime average if normal precipitation patterns do not develop.

Residents should check with local officials to see what if any water conservation measures are in effect for your community.

Next issuance date...
This product will be updated on July 20th or sooner if necessary in response to significant changes in conditions.

Related web sites...

The Grand Forks NWS Local Drought Web page is available by clicking here. The National Drought Monitor may be found here.

Additional information on current drought conditions may be found at the following web addresses (use lower case letters)


The Drought Monitor is a multi-agency effort involving NOAA’s National Weather Service and National Climatic Data Center, the USDA, State and Regional Center Climatologists and the National Drought Mitigation Center. Information for this statement has been gathered from NWS and FAA observation sites, State Cooperative Extension services...the USDA, USGS and USACE.

Questions or comments...
If you have any questions or comments about this drought information statement...please contact...

National Weather Service
4797 Technology Circle
Grand Forks ND 58203
Phone...701-772-0720 x327

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