Extreme drought has arrived in CT according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
While the "extreme drought" area is relatively small, we saw a big jump--more than double the coverage--for "severe drought". Now, more than 75% of the state is designated to be in a severe or extreme drought, the most since 2017.
To be clear, this isn't unprecedented. In fact, our last extreme drought came in 2020. But the fact that we've seen three of these since 2016 is concerning.
This is our most expansive and severe drought since the long-duration 2016-17 drought.
Below are the peak drought images we were able to pull from the U.S. Drought Monitor from our past droughts.
Well, as you can see, this isn't summer being summer. This is an anomalously dry pattern.
There are a few different ways to look at drought, but one key takeaway is that it's relative. An extreme drought here, where wells are stressed and there are significant water restrictions, is not the same as an extreme drought in a place like California, where an extreme drought can mean total crop loss, massive wildfires, and public drinking water supplies threatened.
That said, we don't need to be California to be bad. Relative to our climate, which tends to be temperate, this is a bad drought.
Another critical measure of drought includes looking at soil moisture vs water levels. This is an important distinction, because while soil can recover fairly quickly, water levels indicate a much deeper drought which requires a longer dry period and longer wet period for complete recovery.
The Palmer Hydrological Drought Index shows this well. Although this is a severe to extreme drought based mostly on soil impacts and lack of precipitation, it's still relatively moderate with regard to reservoir levels, the water table, and to a lesser extent, groundwater. Meanwhile in the west, it's downright ugly. We don't ever want to see that here.
While we've seen worse droughts--the 1960s are the benchmark when it comes to drought in the northeast--this one is certainly bad, and it's likely to get worse.
The story of the summer has unfortunately become the drought, and as we begin turning the page toward fall, that is likely to continue. Absent a pattern change that moves us closer to coastal low season, what we're likely to need is a tropical connection.
As we approach the peak of what is a currently quiet hurricane season, we will see if things turn around as they did last summer, from tropical remnants or direct impacts...
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