September 19, 2017
On September 19, northern Massachusetts finally had its first decent rainfall of the summer. Everyone was elated. Over 90 % of the state now had severe drought conditions. On the news that night the weatherman announced that despite the storm the mandatory water bans would probably not be lifted.
Hate to say this folks, but those bans aint going away any time soon. This year most of the bans went into effect in July, next year they will probably start in June and the bans against outside fires will not be lifted until there is snow on the ground.
The imposition of the bans had been widely divergent. Ipswich passed its ban in July when the town’s rainfall fell to about 10 inches below normal. Newburyport waited until September when its rainfall fell to 15 inches below normal. And even with their ban you could still municipal fountains spewing water into the air where it quickly evaporated along with well-watered lawns. Yet when there was a fire in the Newburyport section of Plum Island Ipswich sent their fire engines to help quell the flames.
Yet this was when Ipswich only had fifteen more days of water and not enough to put out its own fires. Plus their grass had been brown and crusty for over three months and most people in Ipswich were only taking a single shower a week.
So when can we expect to get out of this drought? The good news is that the El Nino conditions are over and we are transitioning to what looks like it will be a weak La Nina system. This is when cooler waters spread across the Pacific altering the jet stream so it will deliver snow and frigid weather to New England particularly toward the end of the winter.
The bad news is that the so-called 2017 drought had had actually started during the winter of 2015 when we had over 10 feet of snow. But the snow had been light and fluffy with very little water content. The rest of the year was relatively dry followed by a winter with almost no snow and this past summer with well below average rainfall.
So it had taken us several years to get into this drought and it would take us several years to get out of it. And with global warming this could represent New England’s new normal with over 90 degree days common in summer, dry autumns without colorful foliage and winters with more than our share of snow.