Outside Looking In
The majority of the elderly people I have spoken with recently said this is one of the driest periods they can ever remember. It seems that every time the forecast calls for rain, it bypasses this portion of the state.
As of this past weekend, 98 percent of Minnesota is in a state of drought. A little over 75 percent of the state is experiencing severe drought, and just over 22 percent of the state is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions.
The northern half of Lyon County is in the extreme drought category, while the southern half is considered in severe drought.
Severe drought, or D2, means many of the following can occur; ground is hard, seed corn is short, feed is expensive, crop yields are low, fire danger is high, landscaping is stressed, leaves change colors early, fish kills occur, river flow is very low, well levels decrease.
Extreme drought, or D3, means the aforementioned plus the following can occur; corn is harvested early, emergency haying and grazing are authorized, wildfires are widespread, surface waters are near record lows.
Droughts can be defined four ways:
Meteorological Drought - when an area gets less precipitation than normal. Due to climatic differences, what is considered a drought in one location many not be a drought in another location.
Agricultural Drought - when the amount of moisture in the soil no longer meets the needs of a particular crop.
Hydrological Drought - when the surface and subsurface water supplies are below normal.
Socioeconomic Drought - when water supply is unable to meet human and environmental needs can upset the balance between supply and demand.
In Minnesota, there are 5,204,626 people currently affected by the drought, including 25,857 in Lyon County.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, under current conditions it will take at least three to five inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate the drought. Soils are more efficiently replenished by multiple rainfall events than any single heavy rainfall event. Surface water and groundwater respond somewhat differently over time.
But even getting that much precipitation might not help farmers. The damage may have already been done.
The last drought this severe was in 1976, but that one was not as widespread geographically as the current drought. Farmers said that in 1976, those affected by the drought could get hay from South Dakota or even parts of Minnesota that were less affected.
For those who believe this is only the start of things to come in the future due to climate change, consider that most of Minnesota's record monthly high temperatures are from 1950 or before.
Nine of the 12 monthly heat records fall into that category from the years 1896, 1910, 1917, 1931 (June and September), 1934, 1939, 1947, and 1950. No monthly record for highest temperature has even been tied for 34 years.