By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What started as a warm and wet summer in Minnesota is giving way to drought.

A new report shows the United States is now in its biggest drought since 1956. Minnesota is faring slightly better, though western and southern counties are considerably dry.

Last month, 65 percent of Minnesota was drought-free. That number is down to about 50-percent now.

For some people, the heat is ‘no sweat.’ For others, shade and lakes are essential.

“I’d take a break, it’s pretty hot. Especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your apartment,” said one woman at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis.

Near triple digits seem to be the norm right now. But this warm trend actually began last year. In fact, according to Chris Franks of the National Weather Service, we have been above average for the past 13 months.

“Meteorologists like to see the extremes or see something a little bit more unusual,” Franks said.

And there’s plenty of that. We are two days shy of breaking the record of most 85-plus degree days in a row. Monday was number 21. The record is 23, set in 1941.

So what is the reason for this?

“You just really have to look at the large-scale weather pattern,” Franks said. “It’s not just us that’s getting the heat.”

A dome of high pressure is camped out west and north of us. That, in turn, is keeping cool air bottled up and creating the hot, dry conditions we Minnesotans aren’t necessarily accustomed to.

“The southern U.S. is used to this. They get this all the time. They are south of the jet. They are always under this ridge of high pressure,” Franks said.

Other factors have played a role. Franks says what little snow cover there was here and up north melted early. And things like wildfires actually helped to heat things up. There are also early indications that this winter could be similar to last winter.

“No major cool down,” Franks said. “Even some of the climate models…late summer into August, it still looks pretty warm still.”

Franks said there are indications we are moving towards an El Nino winter, which would mean a warm winter once again. So for those of us who like to pretend we live some place tropical, for now, we actually do.


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