Moderate Drought Declared In Much Of Massachusetts

By Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – The lack of heavy snow or rain from our record warm and dry winter is causing river levels to fall at an alarming rate for this time of year.

“Most of the stream gauges on the Neponset are seeing some of the lowest levels ever recorded. Several of our stream gauges go back more than 70 years,” says Ian Cook, Executive Director of the Neponset Watershed Association.

“We are at about a third of the flow from where we should be,” says Roy Socolow. “That seems to be the case for the vast majority of rivers in the state.”

Roy Socolow is a hydrologist for the US Geologic Survey. They continuously monitor the state’s rivers with a network of over 100 stream gauges in Massachusetts. Eighteen of the rivers are running at record low levels.

“Typically, March, April and May are the recharge periods with snow-melt and rainfall. This time were are not recharging. We are actually going in the opposite direction. That is a bit disconcerting,” says Socolow.

The Assabet River in Maynard is running about a foot below normal for this time of year. That is a river flow level more typical for late June. Because of these dry conditions, much of Massachusetts has been declared to be in a moderate drought.

Records from the Blue Hill Weather Observatory go back to 1885. Observer Bob Skilling has been taking observations of the weather for 60 years. He says, “This January through March 2012 is the driest start to any year on record, with only 6” of total precipitation.” Most areas in southern New England are running about 6-8” below normal.

The National Weather Service says the window may be closing on our chances for getting the kind of rain we need. “In order to ease this short term we are in we really need rainfall amounts with several events of 1-2” over a 18-24 hour period,” says Hydrologist Ed Capone.

In the past year, we have gone from flood to drought. We are still reaping the benefits of last years heavy rain and snow. Most reservoirs and major watersheds are still full. The next concern is the oncoming “Green Up” as vegetation will be evaporating more moisture, allowing the groundwater table and river levels to continue to decrease moving into the growing season.

Experts agree if this dry pattern continues, widespread water restrictions will be in place this summer.

  • Tornado Chris

    Well, I hope that all of those who constantly derided anyone who dared suggest that it might snow these last two winters as ‘snow lovers’ (as if that was a bad thing) on the grounds that snow was a hurtful and destructive thing will enjoy the drought, and equally enjoy the wild fires and destruction that will result from the lack of snow. Please do feel free to chime in this spring and tell us all how the abnormally snow-free winter is such a great benefit to everyone.

    • GRIP---GET ONE

      dude get a grip– wild fires and destruction!!! really–yep another doom and gloomer in here–reallly ? This is not a major problem to this poing so don’t get your panties in a bunch!!! nothing a good old fashioned soaking can’t fix—GOOD GRIEF!!!!

    • Italo

      Chris, your point is well-taken. But we live in Massachusetts, not the southwestern U.S., and we are bound to get storms hitting our northeastern U.S. coastal area sooner rather than later this spring that will bring moisture to soak us as they all eventually do each year. The mets cannot even accurately predict what the weather will do for a holiday that occurs on an upcoming weekend, let alone accurately foresee that we will not get much-needed rain for several weeks or months. Along those lines, a springtime wet storm is bound to materialize when the mets may not see it far in advance, and also due to our area’s notoriously fickle and ever-changing weather patterns: then we will get soaked and the balancing nature of weather will even out the admittedly unsafe dry pattern we’ve been experiencing of late.

      • Tornado Chris

        Italo, I certainly hope that you are correct. The issue is that this blog used to be a place where the mets could engage the public in a friendly setting, and folks could discuss the finer points of a forecast in much greater depth than what can be done in a minute of air time, or even a few written paragraphs. Then last winter a few people joined in and using the logic that since too much snow can be destructive to property that anyone suggesting that it is going to snow is therefore an uncaring sot. (Putting it mildly….). They were nasty, and rude; often using language that had to be removed from these pages. Eventually all of the folks who wanted to simply discuss forecasts left here (and yes, we now discuss the weather, and forecasts, in a friendly manner elsewhere) and what had been a good resource for everyone was severely diminished.

  • matt

    right now the marshland behind my house usually has a good 4 to 8 feet. With the river with a little bit more.
    right now there is less than 6 inches in the marsh with about 2 feet at the river. this is not good for the wild life that calls it home and for my garden the soil is bone dry .
    i hope you people that hate snow so much likes the water shortage which means water bans when its 85 or higher and the crops and gardens struggling. knowing that you can not water them.

  • dbus85

    careful for what you wish for!

  • sean

    thought the picture in the top left was Bobby Flay for a minute

  • keifer4

    Tornado Chris- you’re assessment is inaccurate about the “snow-haters”…..I looked in on the ‘BZ blog last couple of years and some would personally attack others. However, to say that “those suggesting it was going to snow”, ultimately to benefit the wetlands and rivers through Spring melt or whatever you claim, is not why some people were angry. You made sarcastic comments here yourself regarding consequences of drought and wildfire destruction?! Was that helpful to the discussion or add anything to Joe’s blog? You’re angry, right?
    Many snow lovers DID make comments wishing for massive snowfalls and school cancellations. Go back and check the record (if u can)…That prompted some to lash out that big storms can produce serious consequences/risk for the general public and families, brutal commute, scramble for child-care coverage when schools are out, loss of work productivity, property damage (roofs were collapsing last year), injuries from snow removal (heart attacks, blower injuries), etc. etc. That is some of the impetus for “haters” anger on the blog. Some of the harsh language was over-the-top, and tempers flared on both sides of the issue….and if many found refuge on their own site to openly discuss their passion for weather, why are still carrying a chip on ur shoulder here?!

  • man-o-wx

    We are in an interglacial dry period exacerbated by greenhouse gas. The loss of arctic sea ice is a major factor for the dry mild winter. A change towards ENSO will only alleviate the dryness but will not make things wet. The loss of arctic sea ice is critical in summer rainfall. We have less rain as a result.

  • Tornado Chris

    ‘keifer4’ You are yourself inaccurate, both in your comments about my post, and in your conclusions about what happened here last winter. Yes, I ‘can’ go back and ‘check the record’, but I doubt that you have. The weather does what it does, we can’t change that. We CAN however try to be prepared for what happens before it can cause harm. People who discuss (argue?) over what the future weather may be are hardly a hurtful thing, that is a helpful thing. I’m not angry, nor do I have a ‘chip on my shoulder’, but I do regret that this forum has been nullified by those who behave like children. Already a number of posts in response to this discussion have had to be deleted by WBZ, and none of them were from me, or from my friends. You, and your friends, speak for yourselves.

  • Drought in Northeastern US | GroundwaterGo Blog

    […] Roy Socolow of the US Geologic Survey discussed the droughts across Massachusetts with CBS.  He said, “Typically, March, April and May are the […]

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