From Warroad to Wabasha, Minnesota is one wet mess.
The first nine months of 2019 have been the soggiest on record for the state, and by the time 2020 closes out, the decade will be the wettest in state history, according to weather watchers.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy year,” Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Even Richard Gosse’s dog seems to be weary of all the rain. “He just sits here and runs around the house. He doesn’t like to go out in the rain either,” the Wabasha man said as he watched the rain fall Wednesday.
Rain or shine, however, the 82-year-old, who is an official weather observer for the National Weather Service, treks out to his backyard rain gauge at 7 a.m. He’s done that nearly every morning for more than 45 years.
“When I first started, if we got 2 inches of rain at one time, it was something to really talk about,” he said. “Now we seem to get over 2 inches quite regularly.”
Except for January and June, much of Minnesota has been wetter than normal. Rochester already has shattered its annual record with 46.85 inches of rain.
By the end of last month, Minnesota chalked up the second-wettest September on record, Seeley said. “There were a ton of places in the state that received 5 to 10 inches of rain,” he said. Normally, a little more than 3 inches of rain falls in September, he said. The statewide September tally pushed the nine-month total to a record 29.16 inches of precipitation, beating the 1986 record of 28.7 inches, Seeley said.
It’s no wonder it seems that Minnesotans have been either knee-deep in snow or ankle-deep in water for most of this year. In the Twin Cities, the snowiest February on record help push the snowfall season above normal with 77.1 inches of snow. The spring meltdown followed by a soggy summer meant water levels in lakes and rivers stayed high, basements got wet and farm fields were difficult to get through, marking the latest statewide planting since 1979.
And now rain-soaked fields could make harvesting more difficult, Seeley said. Farmers will have to contend not only with a muddy harvest, but they may also have to spend more money to dry their crops before they put them into storage, he said.
“They’re not going to benefit from a nice field-drying condition,” he said. “The profit margins are so tight this year that they don’t need one more cost to bear.”
The above-average moisture is something Minnesotans may have to get used to, he said.
“Minnesota is a piece of American real estate that’s getting wetter and wetter and wetter with each passing decade,” Seeley said. “I can tell you flat out that after we get through [next year], the 2011-2020 period will replace the 1990s as the wettest decade in Minnesota history. We’re already in such huge surplus over the average.”
And that means Minnesotans are going to have to adapt, he added.
Twin Cities meteorologist Paul Douglas agrees. The persistence of the wetness has a lot of weather and climate watchers “scratching their heads,” he said.
“Some of this may be natural variability in the climate system. And some of this may be an emerging wet signal,” Douglas said.
This year’s rainfall means Minnesota might go into the winter with ample moisture in the soil as it did last winter. But Douglas and other meteorologists know better than to predict how it will play out during next year’s snow meltdown.
Last spring, the saturated soil stoked fear that a rapid snowmelt could cause massive flooding. Fortunately, a slower melt caused less flooding than expected.
There are too many variables to predict how this year’s saturated soil will affect spring flooding, Douglas said.
“Nobody knows,” he said. “It’s like predicting the stock market in February.”
“How long it’s been wet and how persistent it’s been wet is mind-boggling,” Douglas aid. “We want to believe we have all the answers and we don’t. Many days we’re bewildered spectators too.”
As for the immediate future, this week’s dreary skies eventually will clear, Douglas said. “Most of next week will be 60s and very nice. … So don’t panic. We still have plenty of fall left to enjoy before the flakes begin to fly.”