BOSTON (CBS) – -A large portion of Massachusetts was upgraded (or should I say downgraded) to the second phase of drought monitoring on Thursday. Just about 55% of the state of Massachusetts is now in what is considered a “moderate drought” (phase 2). This is up significantly from last week when those same areas were only considered “abnormally dry” otherwise known as phase 1.
Sick of hearing about phases this spring and summer? Me too.
Much the same story in New Hampshire and Maine as well this week. Over 72% of the state of New Hampshire moved from abnormally dry to moderate drought this week and the same was true for more than 47% of Maine as well.
So what does all this mean exactly?
Well, there are 5 stages of drought as constituted by the United States Drought Monitor:
1- Abnormally Dry
2 – Moderate Drought
3 – Severe Drought
4 – Extreme Drought
5 – Exceptional Drought
The Drought Monitor is a collaboration of the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s used by state and local authorities to trigger drought-related responses (such as water bans) and it is also used by the federal government for things like disaster declarations and tax deferrals.
Currently we are in what would be classified as a short-term drought. The current water shortage has really only been going on for a month or two. The last two years have been exceptionally wet, about 10-20″ above the two year average for most areas. And, as of April we were doing just fine in the water department. In fact, I think many folks would have welcomed a dry stretch back in early spring.
Our water issues started in May. Since May 17th, Boston, Worcester and many areas to the northwest had around an inch of total rainfall. This ranks in the top 5 driest stretches on those dates in recorded history. Concord NH, has had only 0.18″ in that time frame, easily the driest ever recorded for those dates.
So, no doubt, it has been dry. Lawns are browning and many towns are issuing restrictions. But, to put things in perspective, the current drought is a drop in the bucket compared to what we were experiencing just a few years ago back in 2015-2016. For those two years, most of our area averaged about 10-15″ below the average rainfall. Reservoirs hit all-time lows and by fall of 2016, a large swath of Massachusetts reached level 4 (extreme drought) on the drought monitor. The current drought would have to stretch on for multiple seasons for something like that to occur again. . . extremely unlikely.
I must admit that I have mixed feelings on the current drought situation. You could make the case, that the timing actually isn’t all that bad. The sunny stretch has made for a bumper strawberry crop this year. There are noticeably less mosquitoes this year. And with the recent push for outdoor dining, restaurants surely aren’t complaining. So, it isn’t all bad.
And as you all know, weather in New England can turn around in a hurry. With an active hurricane season coming, we could literally catch up all at once with some sort of remnant tropical system coming through here.
Some towns have made ground just in the last several days with isolated downpours popping up here and there and there are some additional chances of showers and thunderstorms ahead this weekend.
Bottom line, you should follow the restrictions your town has laid out with regards to water conservation, but don’t let the drought talk get you down. Focus on the positives! Get outside and enjoy the sunshine and enjoy the summer as best you can.