Dry weather digs in
People who make their living from the soil, and those who depend on well water, are watching the skies this month, wondering when the rains will return.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that January and February of this year were the driest first-two-month period in the 114-year record for precipitation in the contiguous states.
That follows what was the fifth-driest December-January period on record. Texas had its driest winter ever and the Southeast had its 10th driest. And at the end of February, 24 percent of the lower 48 states was in moderate to exceptional drought.
Here in Maryland, conditions vary across the state. At BWI, we are running 6.25 inches behind the average pace of precipitation since Oct. 1. Barely three-quarters of an inch of melted precipitation has fallen since Feb. 1.
The Drought Monitor map released last week showed 73 percent of the state was experiencing abnormally dry conditions. That was up from zero percent on Jan. 1.
We are at the northeastern fringes of a dry/drought region that stretches from Texas and the southern Plains region, across the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard. The eastern center of drought is in the western portions of the Carolinas and northern Georgia. Much of California and the Great Basin are also seeing drought conditions this winter.
Streamflow across Maryland is approaching record-low volumes for this time of year. And we're just part of a vast swath of territory from Texas to New Jersey that is reporting such conditions. Just to our north, however, communities that have been in the path of this winter's storm track are reporting record-high streamflow (black on the streamflow map in the previous link).
If you're not a fish, you may not be concerned about stream flow volumes. But that's a reflection of the reservoir recharge that depends heavily on winter precipitation. It's also a proxy for recharge of the water table from which many Marylanders draw their residential drinking water. Those levels have also been falling since Feb. 1, at least in northern and western portions of the state. (In Calvert, where the heaviest snow fell last week, wells seem to be doing fairly well.) Here's a monitoring well in Frederick: