Last fall, when our Northern Plains weather turned dry, we did not yet know we would be in full-on drought this summer because we did not yet know how dry the winter and spring would be, nor how hot the summer would become. The period of time it has taken for this drought to manifest itself is longer than our ability to forecast. Unfortunately, these same limits of weather forecasting keep us from knowing when the drought will end.

The 1988 drought in our region was part of a general pattern of dryness which lasted about 3-5 years. The Northern Plains drought of the 1930s lasted most of 12 years, from 1929 through 1940. Historically and prehistorically, our region is known to go to extremes from time to time and for varying lengths of time. This drought could turn into a 1930s type drought or, conceivably, even worse. It's also possible it will be over by next spring. We cannot know.

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