September 2019 wettest, 2020 among driest

Soggy to dry September

A year ago Minot experienced its wettest September ever with 7.85 inches of rain filling the official rain gauge at Minot’s International Airport. This year has been vastly different with a mere 0.33 inch of rain recorded thus far in Sept. at the same location.

Last year’s harvest was affected by soggy conditions that, in some locales, kept heavy equipment out of the field at harvest time. This year conditions have been much different, with dry soils beginning to raise some concern about what might lie ahead.

The U.S. Drought Monitor rated most of North Dakota from “abnormally” dry to being in “severe” drought in its most recent evaluation issued last week. The gooseneck of northern Ward County, all of Renville County, and portions of Williams, Divide, Burke and Bottineau Counties all were considered to be in severe drought.

Although September precipitation is generally light, a 116 year average of 1.46 inches, this September has been exceptionally dry with warm temperatures and several days of high winds encouraging evaporation and resulting drying out of soil.

It was very windy this past weekend with peak gusts at the Minot Airport of 44 miles per hour recorded both Saturday and Sunday. The Minot Air Force Base registered peak gusts of 41 mph both days. Gusts reached 46 mph in Garrison on Saturday and 48 mph on Sunday. The highest record wind gust in the state over the weekend was 62 mph on Saturday at Mott.

Any improvement in the dry conditions is not expected in the coming days with high winds in the forecast for the Minot region most of this week and virtually no chance of precipitation. According to the Climate Prediction Center the dry spell will last at least until mid-October.

“Unfortunately, that’s kind of the way things have been,” said Megan Jones, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Bismarck. “We do go through wet and dry periods and this is definitely drier than normal, very much on the abnormal side, especially when compared to last fall and the latest outlooks favor below-average precipitation for the next month or so.”

Historically, October-December has proven to be very unlikely months to expect much in the way of precipitation. Normal precipitation of October in Minot is only 1.16 inches, November 0.75 inches, and December 0.38 inches. The precipitation totals include snowfall.

“At this point we need a very good soaking rain across the region to make much of a difference,” said Jones.

The lack of rainfall is noticeable in river flows throughout the region as well. Long Creek at Noonan doesn’t have enough flow to even register on a gauge. The Souris River at Sherwood was moving at a mere 1.59 cubic feet per second Monday and at Foxholm a paltry 0.17 cfs.

While fall and freeze-up brings an end to the growing season for plants and grasses across North Dakota and greatly reduces consumption of soil moisture, drying of soils can continue throughout the winter months, especially if snow cover is minimal. Of importance to growers is the amount of snow that falls this winter, a cooperative spring melt, and timely spring rains, all of which can contribute to replenishing increasingly dry conditions.



116 years of records/precipitation

1 – Trace, 1928, 1948.

2 – 0.12 inch, 1976, 1927

4 – 0.13 inch, 1992,1960

6 – 0.15 inch, 1938

12 – 0.33 inch, 2020



7.85 inches, 2019


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