Saint Cloud State University logo Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department
Saint Cloud Forecasts
National Weather Service logoNWS SCSU Big C logo SCSU/Weisman
SCSU NWA Chapter
Weisman Home
Making a Forecast
Eighth Northern Plains Winter Storm Conference: Coming October 28-29, 2013 in Saint Cloud!

Who Turned Off the Waterworks?

September 2011 Saint Cloud Weather Summary

Fourth Driest September

After nearly 8 months in which the rain seemingly never stopped, St. Cloud has suddenly dried out in the past 6 week. The September rainfall at the St. Cloud Municipal Airport totalled only 0.74 inch, 2.72 inch below normal. So, September 2011 ties September 1922 for the fourth driest September in St. Cloud records. More specifically, Saint Cloud has only picked up 1.34 inch of rain between August 21 and September 30. The normal amount of rainfall during that six-week period is 4.91 inches. Lawns and other surface plants have dried out because of the prolonged dry spell.

This comes as a marked contrast to the earlier growing season. Between April 1 and August 20, St. Cloud had 20.81 inches of rain, nearly six inches above the average of 14.90 inches. For the year through the end of September, Saint Cloud is nearly three inches above normal (actual: 26.02 inches; normal 23.04 inches). The long period of dry weather has caused Minnesota topsoil to go from only 2% being short of moisture on August 1 to 54% being short on October 3. Between the start of the year and August 20, Saint Cloud had measurable precipitation on 89 of the first 232 days of the year. That's an average of 2.7 days with rain in the average week. Since August 20, however, St. Cloud has only had measurable rainfall on 7 days out of 41 (now 7 for 44 through October 3). That's only 1.1 days with rain during the average week.

Dry Conditions Enhances Fire Danger

Also, parts of northern and southern Minnesota have ended up 3-6 inches short on rainfall since the end of July and are ranked as having drought on the National Drought Mitigation Center's Drought Monitor. The persistently dry conditions and strong winds behind a cold front led to a lightning-induced fire to spread out of control in the Boundary Waters.

The dryness combined with near record early October warmth has led to extreme fire danger across much of Minnesota this week with a red flag warning in effect for western and southwestern Minnesota.

Why Dry After So Wet?

What produced the turnaround from a soggy spring and early summer to this dry late summer and early fall? A major change in the steering wind pattern finally pushed the persistent humidity out of central Minnesota. At first, this was produced by northwest-to-southeast steering winds that pulled drier air in from Canada. But, as September went on, St. Cloud had its share of warm interludes (September 7-12 had 6 straight 80-degree highs including 4 straight days with a high of 88, the warmest days since August 1). However, that warm air came mostly from the eastern slopes of the Rockies, not from the deep humid air normally over the Gulf of Mexico. There was more cooler Canadian air at mid-month, giving St. Cloud 11 out of 12 days from September 14 through 25 with the highs not making it to 70 degrees. It also included an early season first frost on September 15. For the Saint Cloud Airport, this marked 142 days between frosts (last one in the spring was on April 25), 9 days fewer than normal. However, for much of the northern and central Minnesota, September 15 produced a hard freeze with low temperatures of 28 degrees or colder. That was half a month early (St. Cloud's median hard freeze date is October 1). This early freeze ended up reducing soybean yields. However, the end of the month was marked by the return of warm weather with an 82 degree high on September 28.

Roller Coaster Temperatures End Up Near Normal

Despite all of the ups and downs, Saint Cloud temperatures ended up being very close to normal. The average September 2011 temperature was 58.9°F, 0.3°F warmer than normal.

    September 2011 Statistics

Temperatures (°F)
September 2010
Average High Temperature (°F)
Average Low Temperature (°F)
Mean Temperature for September (°F)
Saint Cloud's Ten Warmest/Coldest Septembers
Temperature Thresholds
Number of Days
September 2011 Days with High Temperature of At Least 90°F
2011 Total Days with High Temperature of At Least 90°F
September 2011 Days with Low Temperature of 32°F or lower
September Temperature Extremes
Warmest High Temperature for September 2011 (°F)
Sept 1,9-12
Coldest High Temperature for September 2011 (°F)
September 22
Warmest Low Temperature for September 2011 (°F)
September 1
Coldest Low Temperature for September 2011 (°F)
September 15
Record Temperatures in September 2011
Old Record
No Temperature Records Set
Precipitation (in)
This Year
September 2011 Precipitation (in)
**Tied 1922 for the Fourth Driest September in St Cloud Records
Saint Cloud's Ten Rainiest/Driest Septembers
Wet Period 2011 (Apr 1 - Aug 20)
Dry Period 2011 (Aug 21- Sept 30)
2011 Growing Season (April 1 - Sept 30) Rainfall (in)
2011 Total Precipitation (in)
Precipitation Thresholds
Number of Days
September 2011 Days with Measurable (>= 0.01 inch) Precipitation
September 2011 Days with >= 0.10 inch Precipitation
September 2011 Days with >= 0.25 inch Precipitation
September 2011 Days with >= 0.50 inch Precipitation
September 2011 Days with >= 1.00 inch Precipitation
September Precipitation Extremes
Precipitation (in)
Most Daily Precipitation in September 2011
0.39 inch
September 18
Record Precipitation in September 2011
Precipitation (in)
Old Record
No records set


Return to top of page
All climate data provided courtesy of NOAA/NWS
National Weather Service logoNOAA logo
and Minnesota Climatology Working Group, including the Minnesota State Climatologist's Office, University of Minnesota-Saint Paul Campus.

Interested in an undergraduate degree in meteorology?

Send comments to:
Last updated: October 4, 2011
Background courtesy of

The low rainfall is quite evident in the river level reports issued this week. The weekly DNR map shows streamflow in the lowest 10% from St. Cloud through most of Sherburne and Benton Counties. Currently, the Mississippi River level at St. Cloud is 4.17 feet, among the 5 lowest stages seen at this gauge (note that the third lowest levels were seen in September 2007, which isn't listed in the records). The Sauk River in Waite Park is down to only 1.17 feet, the sixth lowest stage seen on that river. (In August 2007, the Sauk River was down to 0.37 feet) The streamflow from the USGS shows that the Mississippi River basin is now below the 25% mark in the Mississippi River basin at most stations from Aitkin to the Twin Cities, in the St. Croix basin, and in the central and lower Minnesota River basin. Stream flow is now in the lowest 10% in north central Minnesota, including the Duluth, Grand Rapids, and Ely areas.

Meanwhile, temperature data shows that this September is the summer we didn't have. So far , St. Cloud is working on the warmest September in more than 70 years. Through yesterday, the average St. Cloud temperature has been 65.5F, 7.1F warmer than normal. If we remained this warm, this September would be the third warmest September in St. Cloud records and the warmest since 1931.