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Drought risk could rise with temperatures

FARGO-Much of eastern North Dakota has endured abnormally dry weather but has escaped drought conditions. That could change with sizzling temperatures in the 90s looming.Over the past 90 days, Fargo has received 52 percent of normal rainfall, acc...

Jugs and buckets filled with water are lined up along the edge of a plot as plants grow through some dried topsoil Monday, July 3, 2017, in the community gardens in north Fargo. There is moisture in the ground at root level, according to a gardener working a plot nearby.Dave Wallis / The Forum
Jugs and buckets filled with water are lined up along the edge of a plot as plants grow through some dried topsoil Monday, July 3, 2017, in the community gardens in north Fargo. There is moisture in the ground at root level, according to a gardener working a plot nearby. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO-Much of eastern North Dakota has endured abnormally dry weather but has escaped drought conditions. That could change with sizzling temperatures in the 90s looming.

Over the past 90 days, Fargo has received 52 percent of normal rainfall, according to the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network. Fargo received 4.3 inches of rain during the period.

Lawns that are just starting to parch could quickly turn brown if the forecast, which calls for highs in the 90s later this week and little chance of rain, holds.

A developing high pressure ridge is expected to cause the heat wave, said WDAY meteorologist Lauren Hilko.

The WDAY forecast indicates temperatures could creep above 90 degrees starting today, July 5, cool slightly for a day or two, then possibly return above 90 Saturday and Sunday, with the possibility 90-degree temperatures might continue into next week she said.

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"Pretty consistent in the 80s and 90s," Hilko added. "That's definitely going to dry the ground out significantly."

Hotter air can hold more water, drawing moisture from soils and plants, said Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota's state climatologist.

"The air is going to take that moisture," he said. "It's going to take it from the plants, it's going to take it from the soil."

He added: "The plants are going to lose water fast," assuming temperatures linger in the upper 80s and low 90s, as predicted. "It's going to contribute to drought conditions. It might push the area into moderate drought."

The Climate Prediction Center expects above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation to persist throughout the month.

Hot temperatures carry the possibility of brewing thunderstorms, but those are scattered and very localized, Akyuz said.

"It's going to be a hit-and-miss-kind-of precipitation," he said.

When it comes to rainfall, North Dakota has seen a lot more misses than hits in recent months. Almost the entire state-99.98 percent-is at least abnormally dry, and two-thirds of the state is in at least moderate drought, while 46.9 percent is in extreme drought.

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The worst drought areas are in central and western North Dakota, with extreme drought covering many western and southcentral areas.

Ross, west of Minot, has received only 26 percent of normal rainfall, 1.93 inches, over the past three months, according to NDAWN figures.

At the other end of the scale, areas of the northern Red River Valley have received above-normal rainfall. Grand Forks, where 8.58 inches of rain has fallen in the past three months, is at 117 percent of normal precipitation.

The southern Red River Valley is also wetter than the central valley. Wahpeton has received 7.04 inches of rain in the past 90 days, or 85 percent of normal.

Related Topics: WEATHERDROUGHT
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