Two “Augusts” this year? Crops under stress; Extreme “river whiplash” on Mississippi at St. Cloud

September Summer

It seemed like it would never arrive. Now it looks like it may never leave.

Minnesota’s weird summer of 2013 seems poised to last through September this year. And I don’t hear any complaints coming into the Weather Lab.


The upper air pattern is “stuck” again. And this time we’re on the “summery side” of life.

The good news? 80s may linger into late September this year. The not so good news? We need rain. Desperately.

Enjoy our summer rerun…but pray for rain.

Image: Twin Cities NWS

“River Weather” Whiplash: Mississippi at St. Cloud shows extreme river level fluctuations in 2013 

It’s hard to believe after the spring and early summer deluge, but many rivers are now running near historic lows in central and southern Minnesota. Check out the latest “hydrograph” from the Mississippi at St. Cloud. At 3.97′ it’s the 4th lowest level on record…and the lowest in 21 years since 1992!

Image: NOAA
Image: NOAA
Image: NOAA
Image: NOAA

Just 2+ months ago the Mississippi in St. Cloud was brimming mightily with the 7th highest water level in late June…and has now hit the 4th lowest level on record in a span of just over 2 months!

Image: NOAA

That’s a remarkable…and probably record short term fluctuation for the Mississippi in one summer.

Welcome to “weather whiplash” and “arctic amplification” in Minnesota.

“Flash Drought” = Crop Stress

You can see the corn fields yellowing in parts of Minnesota now. Our sudden plunge from soggy spring into instant drought is taking it’s toll on crops now. Late season snows and soggy wet spring delayed planting. Corn struggled to be “knee high by the 4th of July” this year. Then little rain for a month or more…and shriveling crops on the defense. Still wanna be a farmer?

Here’s some alarming language from the latest Minnesota Crop Report…which shows topsoil condition seven more moisture starved than last year at this time.

Image: MN Crop Report/USDA
Image: MN Crop Report/USDA

Warmer than normal weather continued to stress crops in Minnesota for the week ending September 1, 2013 according to the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service. A total of 6.6 days were suitable for field work. The statewide average temperature was 76.7 degrees, 11.8 degrees above normal. An average of 0.66 inch of rain fell statewide, 0.15 inch below normal. Rainfall amounts of 1.31 and 1.69 inches fell in the North Central and Northeast regions, respectively. Despite the rainfall, statewide topsoil and subsoil moisture levels fell to 66 and 61 percent very short to short, respectively.

Corn conditions were rated 4 percent very poor, 10 percent poor, 33 percent fair, 45 percent good and 8 percent excellent.

Image: MN Crop Report/USDA
Image: MN Crop Report/USDA
Outlook: Summer into late September? Two “Augusts” this year?
There’s no way around it. The upper air maps look warm…and probably into the third week of September. We may get 2 “Augusts” this year. Upper air patterns can flip quickly as we head into fall and things could cool off dramatically in late September…but I just don’t see it yet.
The latest upper air map for September 20th from NOAA’s GFS model show continued “northward displacement” of the jet stream well into central Canada. That’s about 400 miles further north than usual for late September. Maps this far out are little more than a 50/50 confidence factor…but at this point the clear trend is “persistence” for the next 2 weeks.

Image: NOAA GFS Model upper air chart for September 20th shows warm "ridge" over central USA.
Image: NOAA GFS Model upper air chart for September 20th shows warm “ridge” over central USA.

The GFS and Euro continue to crank out high in the 80s…to near 90 at times right into September 20th.

Image: NOAA GFS via IPS Meteostar


Payback for our reluctant spring of 2013? Probably. Weather has an amazing way of evening out over time…even if the shifts are sudden and dramatic.