Minnesota getting wetter as trend continues

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The liquid precipitation total for the state of Minnesota each year, dating back to 1895. This shows a steady climb for the average yearly precipitation in the state from just over 2 feet of moisture to roughly 28 inches... info courtesy of NCDC

The Twin Cities just experienced one of the wettest starts to the year on record, dating back to 1872. But, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise because the state continues to get wetter.

Since records began nearly 150 years ago, the state has been getting wetter on average.  According to the National Climate Data Center, the state of Minnesota has seen more than a quarter inch of precipitation increase every 10 years since 1895. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you climb that much over the course of 125 years, it begins to really add up. Our 10-year average for precipitation in the metro is a little over 28 inches. Back in 1895 though, it was just over 24 inches. That’s a pretty significant increase over time.

When the amount of precipitation we see for the year is broken down by county, though, our increase is not uniform across the state. Much of central and southern Minnesota has seen a 25% to 44% increase in precipitation over the last 100 years. But much of the northern third of the state has only seen a rise from 5% to 15%.

Nationwide trends are similar as much of the country is getting wetter over time. 75% of the Lower 48 has seen at least a 5% rise in precipitation over the last century.  Minnesota is one of the spots experiencing the largest increase in the last century along with many of our bordering states like South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.  The few areas actually seeing a drop in moisture are parts of the Desert Southwest and areas of the far southeast from the Carolinas to Florida.

So why the increase in precipitation? Well, many may say climate change or specifically man-made fossil fuels changing the landscape of our weather. And while that may be the case, there are quite likely other factors at play as well. Here’s why I say that. If you look closer at the graph above, statewide precipitation in the early 1900s wasn’t much lower than where we are now. The only difference really is the dust bowl era of the '10s, '20s, and '30s. Once we got through that, we saw an increase in precipitation back to where we were before the Dust Bowl, and then it’s been a slow and steady climb since then. But, our industrial era really began right as our climate records started in the late 1800s, so there may not be a direct correlation between fossil fuels and our precipitation trends. However, it’s certainly a possibility.