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94-percent of Massachusetts now in 'severe' drought, 39-percent 'extreme'

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

BOSTON -  The drought is getting worse.

It isn't as sexy a story as a big snowstorm or a hurricane, but it is something that effects everyone in one way or another. Perhaps a few months ago you hadn't paid it much attention, but now, in our sixth straight drier than average month, I am guessing the drought is having some sort of impact on your life. 

The new Drought Monitor came out Thursday (as it does every Thursday at 8:30 a.m.) and, as expected, the drought in southern New England has worsened.

CBS Boston

Some of the most noteworthy headlines:

  • The entire state of Massachusetts has a designation of at least moderate drought for the first time in 20 years.
  • Severe drought now covers 94% of the state, again the most since 2002 (it was 90% in 2016).
  • Extreme drought conditions rose from 24% to 39% in the last week, the highest coverage since the drought of 2016 (Mass. reached 52% that year). 

What does "extreme drought" mean exactly?

The official info from the Drought Monitor reads, "Major crop losses & widespread water shortages or restrictions."

That is more of a generalization. We certainly have seen plenty of water bans/restrictions in local towns, but the crop losses at local farms have been minimal to this point. The reason for that is that most farms are using some sort of irrigation. And, as long as you are allowed to water, this summer has otherwise been a great period for local fruits and veggies.

The lack of rain has kept things like fungus/disease and insects to a minimum. Local farmers would tell you that this summer is light years better than last. Last summer there was little they could do to combat the July deluge. As a farmer, it is much easier to deal with drought (in the short term anyways) than soaking and flooding rains. 

CBS Boston

While cities and towns are enforcing water restrictions, our largest water supply (our two biggest reservoirs) remain at "normal" levels. We would need to see drought conditions continue for several more months before there was any real concern in these areas.

Still, the numbers are starting to add up and, in some cases, are staggering.

CBS Boston

To date, this summer (June-July-August) stands as the driest ever recorded in Boston. If you look at the year to date (January 1 through today), 2022 is the fourth driest ever recorded in Boston and the driest since 1995.

Lastly, if you look back to when the drought began in May, Boston has only received 4.54" of water, the least ever recorded in that time period. 

Looking ahead, in the short term, things will only get worse. 

There is very little chance of any rain through early next week. Our next real opportunity comes later next Tuesday. What we really need is a long-duration, slow and steady rain event. Those are typically hard to come by in August. Most of our rain this time of year comes from quick-hitting thunderstorms or tropical systems. A torrential downpour with a bunch of rain coming all at once would mostly just run off the hard, dry landscape. This is why a good gardener would tell you to water your plants slowly and for a long duration, almost at a drip or mist. It takes time for the water to seep down deep in the soil. Too much water all at once in these conditions would do almost nothing.

The drought WILL end at some point. And you know, here in New England, it will probably end in some sort of spectacular fashion.

Thankfully, our region is not really at risk for any long term, landscape-changing drought like parts of the southwestern U.S.

Droughts here tend to come and go in less than a year (two at most). Will it all end with a barrage of tropical systems in September and October? Or perhaps a winter full of snowstorms? 

We shall see! 

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