BOSTON (CBS) – Drought in New England is something we don’t deal with often.
When we live where we live, it is extremely difficult to get long periods of time without significant rainfall. That being said, we occasionally string together several weeks or months of relatively dry weather. 2015 and 2016 were two very dry years, both averaging nearly 10 inches below average rainfall. To be a total of 20 inches below average in two years was as dry as this area of our lives.
But Mother Nature has a way of “correcting” itself, especially here in New England. In the past two years (2018-2019), we have completely eliminated any type of short-term rainfall deficit in Boston.
Total precipitation 2015-2016: 67.85 ″ (approx. 20 ″ below average)
Total precipitation 2018-2019: 103.70 ″ (approx. 17 ″ above average)
So you could say that while we have had some wild fluctuations over the past 5 years, we’ve been average overall. In 2020 we took the opposite path once again.
From May we had below average rainfall for 5 months. In fact, we have accumulated a rainfall deficit of nearly 8 inches in Boston between May and September and more than 10 inches in some suburbs. Again we were back on brown lawns, withered gardens and conserving water. I would say if there ever was a good time for a drought it would be. With so many people stuck at home due to the virus, the sunny, dry weather (especially on weekends) has been a blessing.
As the seasons changed from summer to fall, the drought persisted, and by the first week of October more than a third of the state of Massachusetts was hit by “extreme drought”. Things got serious.
However, in typical New England fashion, the weather began to change.
Since October 13 (approximately the last 3 weeks) Boston and the surrounding areas have received several significant rainfall events. Southern New England has seen more rainfall in the past 20 to 25 days (between 5 and 8 inches in most areas) than in the past three to four months combined!
We saw that the areas of extreme drought went from 36% to 0%.
The region with severe drought has fallen from around 86% to 17%.
After all, the moderate drought that covered most of the state about a month ago has now dropped to 62%.
Still, there is still a lot to do.
Approximately 91% of the state of Massachusetts is still in some kind of drought classification. Small areas of severe and extreme drought still exist in the coastal areas of New Hampshire and Maine.
It seems we have reached some kind of a turning point.
If the rain and snow keep coming, we could completely eliminate all drought problems in the coming weeks and months.
But if we slipped back into a dry pattern we could easily go back to where we were about 4 weeks ago.
Remember, while we’ve made up a lot of ground, Boston is still more than 8 inches below the 2020 average, while areas in the north like Concord, New Hampshire are still more than 10 inches below the annual average.
The short-term prospects are good for late-season golfers and hikers, but not for our drought. In the forecast for the next week or so there is very little rainfall.
In fact, our best chance of significant rain could be on the remains of Eta, the tropical system currently spinning in Central America and expected to emerge offshore and drift towards Florida in the coming days.
Part of that moisture could Get drawn into a frontal system and reach our area later next week, but trust in that area is extremely low at the moment.
Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ