Third-driest year on record so far in Duluth

Drought persists across middle of Minnesota with a dry swath from the Iowa border to the Ontario border.


Climate scientists have noted in recent years how more precipitation is coming in isolated thunderstorms and less in region-wide rain events, and that’s certainly been the case this summer in the Northland.

It’s been feast or famine as some areas have been battered by multiple downpours and thunderstorms, while areas 50 miles away suffer drought.

Case in point: As of Thursday, Duluth was 6.25 inches below normal for precipitation in 2020, receiving just half the usual moisture we should have by this time. June has seen less than a half-inch of rain, one of the driest on record, in a month that should have seen about 3.4 inches by now. Brainerd is nearly 6.5 inches short for precipitation since Jan. 1

But Hibbing has had a wet June, with 3.7 inches of rain falling already, and is more than 3 inches above normal for 2020 precipitation. The Twin Cities is a full inch above normal.

The National Weather Service in Duluth said 2020 is the driest year to this point in 110 years, trailing only 1910 and 1900 for all-time driest.


The patchwork pattern of thunderstorms has created a dry swath across Minnesota stretching diagonally from Rock County on the Iowa border in the southwest to Cook County on the Ontario border in the northeast.

The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday posted that a moderate drought now runs from Swift County in the west to St. Louis County in the northeast. Most of northwestern and southeastern Minnesota have adequate moisture.

Horticulture experts remind anyone with gardens, plants and young trees to water then about an inch each week at this time of year. While brown lawns will eventually come back when rain returns, many trees and plants can be permanently stressed by prolonged drought.

More widespread rain and thunderstorms are forecast for much of the Northland for Friday, which could bring drought relief to some areas, the National Weather Service notes.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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