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Parts of Minnesota have once again slipped into severe drought, just a year after one of the worst statewide droughts in decades.

Minneapolis and St. Paul had their fifth-driest June ever recorded, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). July has not been much better. Couple the lack of rain with abnormally hot days that quickly evaporate what little precipitation there has been, and it doesn't take long for a drought to form, said Eric Ahasic, an NWS meteorologist based in the Twin Cities.

"The problem is June, July and August are normally our wettest months," Ahasic said. "We really need to get that rain in the wet season because once we get to fall we usually just don't have enough moisture in the air to make a dent."

The drought has been worst in the southern part of the state, starting in Minneapolis and St. Paul and creeping down toward Mankato. NWS has classified nearly the entire lower third of Minnesota as "abnormally dry."

While thunderstorms were expected around the southern Twin Cities area this weekend, the long-term forecast does not look promising. Rainfall in July is expected to finish several inches below normal and it looks like it will remain hot and dry in August and September, Ahasic said.

Minnesota has whipsawed between rainfall extremes for several years now, a long-predicted result of a changing climate. The state received the most annual precipitation it ever recorded in 2019, after several years of extreme flooding.

Then in late 2020 and throughout most of 2021, streams and rivers around the state caked dry. State and national parks closed because of wildfire hazards and most municipalities enacted some form of lawn watering restrictions as all of Minnesota was engulfed by its most intense drought since at least the 1980s. Very heavy snowfall and a wet spring followed, especially throughout the North Shore and along the Red River to the west, causing major floods. Now drought has returned.

The back-to-back summers of drought have raised concerns about the condition of Minnesota's crops. Many farmers were already behind because the unusually wet spring delayed planting, said Allen Sommerfeld, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

"Last year a lot of folks were having to make some difficult decisions, especially livestock producers and specialty crop farmers," he said. "We're concerned that that is what may be coming or could happen again. We've had such a dry June and July we don't know what the rest of the summer will be as we move into fall and harvest time."

Overall, the state is still in much better condition than it was this time last year. The heavy snow and wet spring that helped pull northern Minnesota out of last years' drought also propped up water levels, especially in areas like Lake Itasca that feed the Mississippi River.

Because of that extra water from upstream, even in the driest part of the state, most rivers are close to their normal levels for this time of year, according to NWS. The fire season has also been relatively calm, with risks ranging from low to moderate.

But without rain, that will only last for so long, Ahasic said.

"While it doesn't look like we're going to be able to just wipe out this drought, it only takes one or two good thunderstorms to really make a dent, to bring 3 or 4 inches of rain," he said.

The hope is that it comes sooner, rather than later, because autumn typically just doesn't bring much rain in Minnesota.

"The concern is if we don't get much improvement on the drought now, before we get into the fall, then what happens is we almost have to wait until next spring and summer," Ahasic said. "And at that point we'd be at a worse starting point than this year."