It is no secret that 2021 has been a very dry season across the Northland. Multiple wildfires have broken out across the region this season, as almost all of Minnesota experiences some level of drought conditions.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that while most of Wisconsin has been spared from particularly dry conditions, roughly two thirds of Minnesota is experiencing either "extreme" or "exceptional" drought conditions, which are the worst on the Drought Monitor's scale.

On the Wisconsin side of the border, Superior is under a "moderate drought", while most of the rest of the western and northern portions of Douglas County are classified as "abnormally dry". Also experiencing "abnormally dry" conditions is the far fringes of the Bayfield Peninsula and down through the northern half of Ashland and Iron Counties.

US Drought Monitor

The Minnesota component of the Northland, on the other hand, is a whole different story. Much of the immediate Twin Ports area is under a "moderate drought", while much of the Iron Range and Arrowhead are either under "severe" or "extreme" drought conditions. Head toward Bemidji, Red Lake, and areas of Northwestern Minnesota, and the drought is even more severe.

US Drought Monitor

So, with drought conditions being as bad as they are, how close to record-breaking dry weather is the Northland seeing?

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According to the Minnesota DNR's year-to-date precipitation chart, which tracks current rainfall to date compared against normal expected rainfall and the driest and wettest seasons on record for a number of locations across the state.

That data, as of August 17, shows a handful of towns that are experiencing their driest season to date, while a large number of other towns are very near that historical driest season to date number.

In the map below, which shows Northland locations where the Minnesota DNR records data, you can see where various places across the Northland are at. Red dots indicate areas that are seeing the driest season to date on record, while the other locations have not reached that landmark. The number indicates the difference, in inches, from that historical benchmark of driest season to date on record.

Duluth is just above the mark for driest season to date on record by a fraction of an inch, with the record being set in 1956. Meanwhile, places like Two Harbors, Bruno, and Milaca are among the furthest away from the historical benchmark as of the time of this data being compiled.

Conversely, Ely, Big Falls, Eveleth, and Sandstone are all two or more inches of rain drier than the previously-recorded driest seasons on record season-to-date to August 17.

Precipitation Through August 17

Historical year-to-date compared to 2021 (in inches)

2021 SeasonPrevious Driest SeasonDifferenceYear of previous record
Eveleth10.7412.82-2.082006
Ely10.9413.60-2.662020
Big Falls5.868.90-3.041931
Sandstone9.7315.72-5.992009

Here's hoping we get some rain soon to start to quench this ever-increasing drought the region is seeing.

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