Drought Across U.S. Northeast Could Be Erased by Tropical Storm

If you live in the U.S. Northeast, you may know things have been pretty dry.

Not California-dry, but dry nonetheless. In some parts, lawns are brown, flowers are wilting and local governments are telling residents not to water them or wash cars.

That may be about to change because Tropical Storm Bill’s remnants could be felt in the area and because the dry pattern just seems ready to shift.

“If you believe the forecast for the next week or so, the Northeast will be under a moderate to heavy precipitation regime again,” said Russell Martin of the Drought Monitor Focal Point at Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center. “So the hope is that we end up with very little drought or dryness.”

The Northeast -- which the U.S. Drought Monitor defines as West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, along with the six New England states, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey -- has about 12.2 million people living in drought areas.

In Massachusetts, which dealt with record snowfall this past winter, almost 90 cities and towns have mandatory or voluntary outdoor watering bans in effect, according to the state’s office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

“The Northeast is not known for drought,” Martin said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “We have rather uniform precipitation through the year, a typical middle-latitude storm track and a relatively humid climate.”

California’s Different

That makes the Northeast different from California, now in its fourth year of drought. In California, the most rain falls from November to March, and if the ground isn’t saturated and the reservoirs aren’t full by then, you are out of luck for the rest of the year.

If Northeastern rain rates even get close to normal levels, that will be enough to turn back much of the dryness. It would take a lot more than just a normal rainfall to turn things around in the West.

Martin said he hopes the current year ends up playing out like 2012. A drought that began in the spring that year peaked in May and started to improve in June.

Droughts tend to get worse in the spring because the plants emerge and nature’s demand for water goes way up.

“Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t time the new precipitation well to accommodate that,” Martin said.

Rain Arriving

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, in its outlook for the three months through Sept. 30, said drought may be erased from the Northeast by then.

From the look of things, some areas may not have to wait that long.

Bill’s arrival in the Northeast this weekend may push things closer to normal.

As the remnants of the tropical storm move through the area, Long Island may end up with 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain while a big chunk of southern New England gets more than an inch.

From June 1 through Thursday, 2.17 inches of rain fell at Islip, on Long Island, 0.55 of an inch below normal. Bill could send it into a surplus. Normal for the entire month is 4.41. according to the National Weather Service.

So, if your town threatens to fine you for washing your car, you might just want to soap it up and leave in the driveway. Your friend Bill will take care of the rest.

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