By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Drought conditions in Minnesota are continuing to improve.

The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor show that in the last week the state saw a gradual easing of moderate and severe drought conditions across central and southern Minnesota. About 85% of the state is at least experiencing moderate drought, that’s down from nearly 89% last week.

Still, extreme and exceptional drought conditions have only diminished slightly in northern Minnesota. From the Red River Valley to the Arrowhead, almost all of northern Minnesota is under extreme drought conditions, which means that crops are harvested early, wildfires flare up easily, and surface waters are near record lows.

Minnesota’s record drought this summer comes as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the nation experienced the hottest summer on record, just a fraction of a degree hotter than the 1936 Dust Bowl Summer.

According to NOAA, the average temperature during meteorological summer — June 1 through Aug. 31 — was 74.0 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the Dust Bowl record by less than 0.01 of a degree.

Several western states, such as California, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah, saw their hottest summers on record. As for Minnesota, the state experienced its second-hottest summer since records began more than 120 years ago. The only hotter year was 1988.

The summer was also the seventh-driest experienced in Minnesota. Between June and August, the state averaged 7.65 inches of rainfall, which is about 3.5 inches below average.