By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) – Drought in New England is something that we don’t often deal with.

Living where we do, it is extremely difficult to get long stretches of time without some sort of significant precipitation. That being said, we do occasionally string together several weeks or months of relatively dry weather. 2015 and 2016 were two very dry years, both averaging close to 10″ below the average rainfall. Being a combined 20″ below average in a two-year span was just about as dry as we have been in this area in our lifetimes.

But, Mother Nature has a way of “correcting” itself, especially here in New England. Over the last two years (2018-2019) we completely wiped out any sort of short-term rainfall deficit in Boston.

Check it out:

2015-2016 total rainfall: 67.85″ (about 20″ below average)
2018-2019 total rainfall: 103.70″ (about 17″ above average)

So, you could say, over the last 5 years, while we had some wild swings, overall, we ended up about average. 2020 has seen us, once again, go the other way.

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Starting in May, we had 5 straight months of below average precipitation. In fact, between May and September we accumulated a rainfall deficit of nearly 8″ in Boston and more than 10″ in some of the suburbs. Once again, we were back to brown lawns, wilting gardens and conserving water. I would say, if there were ever a good time for a drought, this was it. With so many folks stuck at home due to the virus, the sunny, dry weather (particularly on weekends) was a blessing.

As the seasons changed from summer to fall, the drought continued and, as of the first week of October, more than one-third of the state of Massachusetts was designated to be in “extreme drought.” Things were getting serious.

In typical New England fashion however, the weather began to change.

Since October 13th (about the last 3 weeks), Boston and the surrounding areas have received several significant precipitation events. Southern New England has gotten more rainfall in the last 20-25 days (between 5-8″ in most areas) than we received in the prior 3-4 months combined!

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We have seen the areas of extreme drought drop from 36% to 0%.

The severe drought region has dropped from around 86% to 17%.

Finally, the moderate drought which covered nearly the entire state about a month ago, now is down to 62%.

Having said all of this, there is still some work to do.

About 91% of the state of Massachusetts is still in some sort of drought classification. Small areas of severe and extreme drought still exist in coastal New Hampshire and Maine.

It appears, we have reached a sort of tipping point.

If the rain and snow keep coming, we could completely wipe out any drought concerns in the coming weeks and months.

But, if we were to slip back into a dry pattern, we could easily go right back to where we were about 4 weeks ago.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Keep in mind, while we have made up a lot of ground, Boston is still more than 8″ below the average for 2020, while areas to the north like Concord, New Hampshire are still more than 10″ below the yearly average.

The short-term outlook is great for late season golfers and hikers but not for our drought. There is very little precipitation in the forecast for the next week or so.

In fact, our best chance of any meaningful rain may lie with the remnants of Eta, the tropical system currently spinning around Central America and forecast to emerge offshore in the coming days and drift towards Florida.

Some of that moisture could get drawn into a frontal system and reach our area later next week, but confidence on that is extremely low as of now.

Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ

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