October 7, 2011

Texas drought could last "another decade"


The Texas state climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, says the historic drought in the Lone Star State could last for years. The La Nina conditions that have returned to the equatorial Pacific for a second year can partly explain the dry weather. But he said scientists believe warm surface waters in the North Atlantic since 1995 also may “amplify” the effect. “This period, with both the Pacific and Atlantic working against us, might be over in a couple of years … It seems likely to last another decade.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:07 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought, From the Sun's print edition

August 13, 2011

A splash of rain, a peck of trouble on the farm


A bit of rain last week put a little more moisture into Maryland’s soil. The weekly Weather & Crops report said 80 percent of the state’s topsoil is “short” to “very short” of moisture, down from 85 percent the week before.

Crop reports, however, remain dire. “Moisture and temperatures continue to limit crop growth and development,” a USDA reporter in Maryland said this week.

Fifty-three percent of the state’s pasture, 41 percent of the corn and 37 percent of soybeans are in “poor” to “very poor” condition.  

(SUN PHOTO: Monira Al-Haroun, Patuxent Publishing, 2011)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:02 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought, From the Sun's print edition

July 28, 2011

90s continue, dry conditions spread in Md.

Forecasters are giving us a 20 to 30 percent chance of seeing some showers sometime on Thursday, Friday or Saturday afternoon. The cloud cover that comes with these little disturbances will keep afternoon temperatures from reaching the triple-digit heights that had been forecast for downtown Baltimore on Friday.

But it will remain hot, and increasingly humid. The forecast high for Friday at BWI-Marshall Airport is now 98 degrees, with Heat Index values reaching 104 degrees. Downtown Baltimore could reach 99 degrees Friday afternoon, with humidity pushing the Heat Index to 106 degrees.

And the 90-degree weather is forecast to continue at least through next Wednesday. On Saturday, the streak will reach 14 days. That will tie the mark for the third-longest stretch of 90-plus weather in Baltimore. If we go another week, to next Saturday, the count will stand at 21 days, equal to the second-longest streak of 90-degree weather on record here, set in 1988.

The streak would have to continue until Aug. 10 to match the all-time record for consecutive 90-degree days, 25, in 1995.

In the meantime, dry conditions have spread across Maryland in the past week. The USDA Drought Monitor map released this morning shows all of Maryland except the western two-thirds of Garrett County - almost 94 percent of the state - rated as at least "abnormally dry." That's up from 86 percent last week.

Severe drought remains limited to Wicomico and slices of Worcester and northern Somerset counties on the Lower Eastern Shore - just 5 percent of the state, and unchanged from last week. But "moderate" drought conditions remain south of Easton on the Eastern Shore, and in the southern portions of Calvert and St. Mary's counties, roughly 18 percent of the state.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought, Forecasts

June 16, 2011

Clouds, sprinkles, showers and storms are welcome

They're calling it "unsettled" weather out in Sterling. It's a complex set of low-pressure systems in eastern Canada and the Great Lakes, and an approaching cold front, which is forecast to stall across the forecast area and return as a warm front next week.

It all adds up to plenty of clouds for Central Maryland through the weekend, with periods of sprinkles, showers and thunderstorms.


Daytime temperatures will struggle to reach 80 degrees today, but they will begin to creep higher tomorrow and Saturday, settling in the upper 80s through the weekend to near 90 degrees by the middle of next week.

Whatever rain falls will be welcome. We can use the moisture. The weekly Drought Monitor report released this morning shows "abnormally dry" conditions have continued to spread north into Central Maryland since last week, to southern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties. They now encompass 63 percent of the state.

Dry conditions are worst on the Lower Eastern Shore, with everything south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge now in "moderate" drought. Extreme Southern Maryland - including the lower half of St. Mary's County and the southern tip of Calvert - is also now in moderate drought. In all, the drought conditions cover 25 percent of Maryland's territory.

The latest Weather & Crops Report from the USDA quotes a Delaware report saying: "Some storms came through with some maintenance rain to keep the corn alive and the beans coming up, but a lot more is needed." A Maryland report said: "The hot, dry weather has been tough on crops but good for hay making."


Topsoil moisture is reported "short" or "very short" in 52 percent of the state. Subsoil moisture is "short" or "very short" in 35 percent.

Rainfall for the year in Salisbury is 7.75 inches below the long-term average.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought, Forecasts

June 9, 2011

Dry conditions in Maryland expand

The extent of moderate drought conditions in Maryland has begun to expand out of the three southern-most Eastern Shore counties.

The June 7 U.S. Drought Monitor report, released this morning, shows 17 percent of the state is now experiencing moderate drought, including Somerset. Wicomico and Worcester counties, and now portions of Dorchester and Caroline, too.

"Abnormally dry" conditions now include the rest of Maryland's Eastern Shore south of Cecil COunty, and the Western Shore as far north as southeastern Baltimore County. 

In all, dry conditions now encompass 45 percent of Maryland's geography, up from 22 percent in last week's Drought Monitor report.

So far, farmers don't appear to be having difficulty with the scarcity of rain. In fact, the USDA's Weather & Crops report on Tuesday noted that farmers in North Central and Southern Maryland were taking advantage of the weather to complete hay harvests and spring planting.

But farm reports from the Delaware noted the dry weather was "putting stress on growing crops."

Topsoil moisture was rated "short," or "very short" in 41 percent of the state. Subsoil moisture was short or very short in 26 percent.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

October 21, 2010

NOAA: More dry weather ahead for S. Md., Delmarva

CPC/NOAANOAA's Climate Predicition Center has issued its three-month precipitation outlook for the nation, and it shows continuing dry weather for Southern Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula (brown and tan on the map at left). Both regions were hit hard by drought this summer.

Western Maryland is still suffering from moderate to severe drought. The three-month outlook suggest more nearly average rainfall ahead for that part of the state. Some improvement in drought conditions is expected in parts of the region, but it will persist in others, forecasters said. 

By far the most striking thing on the new precipitation map for November, December and January is a broad swath of below-average precipitation expected from southern Louisiana, across northernCPC/NOAA Florida, southern Georgia and coastal South Carolina. Its part of an even wider region of dry weather forecast for the Southeastern United States that reaches into southern Maryland.

The Drought Outlook map (right)shows persisting or developing drought across most of the Deep South through January.

All of this is expected as a consequence of a strengthening La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean. So are predictions of above-average precipitation for the northwestern states, and the Ohio Valley. The rest of the country shows no strong trends on precipitation either way.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

September 28, 2010

Finally, a bit of rain for Western Maryland

Sunday into Monday, it was mostly Central Maryland and parts of the Eastern Shore that saw quenching rains to ease the long summer's dry weather and drought. The extremely parched regions west of Frederick were mostly left out.

But the rains that followed, Monday into Tuesday, have been more generous. Here are some 24-hour totals from the CoCoRaHS Network:NOAA

Manchester: 1.77 inches

Taneytown:  1.58 inches

Thurmont:  1.45 inches

Williamsport:  1.26 inches

Cumberland:  0.88 inch

JS, a regular Maryland WeatherBlog reader in Frederick County, had this to say:

"the rains came---2 inches in western frederick county, it sure sounded nice on the roof last night and early this morning :) too late for my friends in farming, they got devastated this year--very grim situation"

It looks like most of the rain - that firehose that's been gushing up the East Coast  for the last 24 hours, is about to slide off to the east. Now we have a new tropical system to watch (below).NOAA/NHC

The National Hurricane Center says the stormy region that's been boiling in the northwest Caribbean for the past few days has finally become a tropical depression, the 16th of the season. It is very close to becoming the 14th named storm of the Atlantic season, Nicole. It is expected to move across Cuba into southeastern Florida and up the coast in the next 48 hours.

Here is the latest advisory on TD 16. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

The National Weather Service is calling this system the "remnants of Tropical Storm Matthew," and forecasting that it will be drawn into low-pressure set to develop off the Southeast coast late Wednesday, bringing us the threat of heavy rain ... maybe:



The folks in Sterling are calling for us (BWI) to get up to 3 inches of new rain Wednesday into Thursday. The wekend, in case you have plans, looks cool (60s) but sunny.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:26 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

September 27, 2010

Rain tops 1" in Baltimore; more coming

Lots on the weather docket this morning. First the rain we've already received. Baltimore and a number of other locations in Maryland have recorded well over an inch of rain in the last 24 hours as a major seasonal change in the large-scale weather patterns takes hold.

As autumn settles in this week, we will erase the shortfall in moisture we built up during the first three weeks of September. The forecast from the National Weather Service forecast office in Sterling projects as much as an inch and a quarter of additional rain through Tuesday. And, if things work out the way some models suggest, we could be looking at a great deal more rain before the month ends on Thursday as a tropical system moves our way.

First, the totals for the last 24 hours. BWI-Marshall is reporting just a little over an inch since the rain began Sunday morning. We have 1.06 inches on the gauge here at The Baltimore Sun. But here is a sampling of some higher numbers from across the region, from the CoCoRaHS Network.

Bowie:  1.68 inchesNOAA/NWS

Bishopville, Worcester Co.:  1.63 inches

Baltimore City:  1.54 inches

Delmar:  1.52 inches

Pasadena:  1.38 inches

Kingsville:  1.29 inches

Towson:  1.01 inches

Ellicott City:  0.90 inch

Havre de Grace:  0.70 inch

Next, forecasters say we're looking at a "slight risk" for severe thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight along the I-95 corridor. "Heavy rain and strong gusty winds" are also a risk early Tuesday, forecasters said.

Here's why: There is a cold front parked along the coastal states, with low pressure centered over Georgia. The counter-clockwise spin around the low is drawing a load of moisture north out of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Hence, our soaking rain, which is going to continue off and on through Tuesday as the low moves north into the eastern Great Lakes.

If enough warm air gets north along with the tropical moisture, that could trigger thunderstorms in the area as the cold front approaches the region. Flash flood watches are already posted to our south and west, in parts of southwest Virginia, but not yet for us. It's been so dry, there is plenty Sunday's rainof room in area streams to absorb much of this rain.

The NWS has issued a Coastal Flood Advisory for minor to moderate flooding on the Western Shore from Harford to St. Mary's counties at high tide as the low approaches and east winds drive bay water onto low-lying spots. 

And as the cold front moves through early Tuesday, we may see another round of thunderstorms, heavy rain and gusty winds in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, forecasters say. An "isolated tornado" is also possible.

High pressure behind the cold front could clear skies later on Tuesday, and bring us some sunshine on Wednesday. But a tropical storm, or remnants of a storm, are forecast to be moving up the coast by Thursday. Models disagree on where the rain will fall.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore and a frequent contributer here, said the Canadian forecast model brings the storm along a more westerly track. That, he says, "would give the region a period of torrential rainfall Thursday and Thursday night."

"If I had to make an early call," he said, "I say we get smacked by either the remnants of a tropical storm, or the storm itself, during the latter half of the week ... The rain, while quite unpleasant to drive in, is much-needed ... and should put a dent in the developing/expanding drought in the region."

UPDATE: At noon, Eric adds this:

"The WRF/NAM [model] has between 3" and 7" of rain falling between now and Thursday night, and this does NOT include the tropical storm (should it stay close enough to the coast). Short-range model ensembles have similar results. Make sure those sump pumps are working and drains are clear of debris!"

(REUTERS PHOTO: Steve Schaefer, Sept. 26, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:11 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drought

September 17, 2010

Showers welcome, but Sept. still dry

The thunderstorms that swept across Baltimore and other parts of the state Thursday - part of the same line of storms that caused so much damage in New York City - brought some welcome moisture. But they did little to break the region's prolonged spate of dry weather.

Here on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, the storm left just 0.23 inch of rain in the bucket. The Baltimore Sun's weather station at Calvert and Centre streets shows just 0.22 inch. And out at BWI-Marshall, the National Weather Service reported just 0.06 inch. Other parts of the state - especially the extremely parched western counties - reported the most. Here are some reports from the CoCoRaHS Network:

Cumberland: 0.80 inchDrought Monitor

Williamsport:  0.76 inch

Thurmont:  0.43

Frederick:  0.41

Even so, the total so far this month at BWI-Marshall comes to just 0.89 inch. That's 1.29 inches short of the average through the 16th of the month. And there is no rain anywhere in the 7-day forecast from Sterling.

The Drought Monitor map released Thursday does not include any rain that's fallen since Tuesday. It continues to show a third of Maryland in "moderate" to "extreme" drought. The portion of the state considered "abnormally dry" increased last week from 59 percent to 84 percent.

The dry conditions are - or were, before Thursday's showers -  closing in on the "normal moisture" bubble that has surrounded Baltimore and its suburbs since some mid-August rains, leaving not quite 16 percent of the state in that "normal" category.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:03 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

September 9, 2010

Third of Maryland now in drought

Drought Monitor 

The new Drought Monitor map, released Thursday morning, shows that nearly a third of Maryland is now in "moderate" to "extreme" drought, with the most serious drought in Western Maryland.

Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore are also struggling with scarce rainfall. But hardest-hit is an arc of territory along the Potomac River in Allegany and Washington counties, where conditions were rated as "extreme" for the first time this summer, as rainfall dwindled to 40 percent of normal. Portions of nearby West Virginia and Virginia are also in the "extreme drought" zone. 

Drought conditions in Garrett, Allegany, Washington counties and the western sections of Frederick County are all rated as "severe" to "extreme."USGS Washington County well  The graph below shows the water level in a monitoring well in Washington County over the past 90 days.

Farther east, the yellow shading where the state is considered to be "abnormally dry" has crept back into northern Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties, and "moderate" drought persists in the Lower Eastern Shore.

The "drought" ratings are derived from data on soil moisture, rainfall, streamflow and vegetation health measured by satellite. Here are some definitions:

D1: "Moderate" drought: Some damage to crops, pastures; fire risk high; streams, reservoirs, or wells low, some water shortages developing or imminent, voluntary water use restrictions requested

D2: "Severe" drought: Crop or pasture losses likely; fire risk very high; water shortages common; water restrictions imposed

D3: "Extreme" drought: Major crop/pasture losses; extreme fire danger; widespread water shortages or restrictions

D4: "Exceptional" drought: Exceptional and widespread crop/pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells, creating water emergencies

Overall, the percentage of the state where moisture is rated as normal (white on the map) shrank from 58 percent to 41 percent in the past week. Sixty percent is considered to be abnormally dry or in drought, up from 42 percent last week.

Many Maryland streams are running far below normal (cranberry and red dots on the map below).

Here's how the Drought Monitor described the week's developments:

"Across the panhandle of West Virginia, northwest Maryland and extreme southwest Pennsylvania, extreme drought (D3) conditions were added.  Precipitation for the most recent 30 and 90 days measure in at about 40% of normal, while the SPI, NLDAS soil moisture and stream flows are all below the 5% threshold for indicating extreme drought.  USGS Streamflow

"Across northern Virginia, abnormal dryness was expanded from the west toward the District of Columbia to reflect the field reports of deciduous trees dropping leaves and fruit earlier than normal due to lack of recent rainfall.

"Abnormal dryness and moderate drought were also expanded into eastern Pennsylvania and across Delaware, where the entire state is now experiencing abnormal dryness or moderate drought.   Dropping lake levels and scorched lawns are becoming more common across this region."

A Water Supply Outlook report issued last week by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin said water resources in the system are decreasing, with stream flow throughout the basin below normal. And the forecasts indicate the pattern will continue.

Upstream reservoirs - Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca - are "moderately full to full," the report stated. So, "from a water supply perspective, there is sufficient water in the Potomac River to meet Washington metropolitan area demands..."  Water releases from the reservoirs would supplement the Potomac's flow and ensure supplies for downstream communities that get their drinking water from the river.

Okay. Now I've written about the drought. Let the rains begin.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:38 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

August 2, 2010

Scattered showers haven't helped crops much

Rain showers in the past week don't seem to have helped Maryland's farmers much, especially in crispy-dry regions like Western and Southern Maryland, and the Lower Eastern Shore.

The USDA's weekly crops report for Maryland and Delaware is in and crop reporters say that while lower temperatures and showers have been welcome, the benefit can be hard to find. "Some crops Rain Marylandbeyond help, while others would benefit from timely rain," said one.

Maryland's pasture has continued to deteriorate, with 60 percent now rated "poor" to "very poor." That's up from 42 percent a month ago. 

The corn crop seems to have benefited from the rain. The portion rated poor or very poor declined from 55 percent last week to 49 percent in this report. But a month ago just 38 percent of the corn was rated that badly.

Soybeans, too, seem to have responded to the rain. Only 36 percent was rated poor or very poor, down from 49 percent last week, and better than the 42 percent a month ago.

Peaches were unchanged from 74 percent in good to excellent condition last week. Seventy-three percent of the apple crop was rated good to excellent, down from 88 percent last week, and 98 percent at the beginning of July.

Topsoil and subsoil moisture also continued to decline in the past week. Seventy-five percent of Maryland's topsoil is rated "short" or "very short" of moisture, up from 68 percent two weeks ago. Seventy-four percent of the subsoil is rated "short" or "very short" of moisture, up from 62 percent two weeks ago. 

(PHOTO: Reuters/ Jonathan Ernst/ Presidential motorcade in Maryland, July 25, 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

July 22, 2010

Showers push back drought zone in Md.


Showers and thunderstorms during the past week have ended, for now, the agricultural drought for Baltimore and counties surrounding the Upper Chesapeake Bay. But moderate drought (tan on the map) persists this week in parts of Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore.

BWI-Marshall Airport recorded more than 2 inches of rain between July 13, when data for last week's Drought Monitor map was gathered, and July 20, when this week's map was compiled.Rain and flowers 

In that time span, the northeast section of Maryland, from Cecil County to eastern Carroll County, south to northern Arundel and Prince George's counties returned to normal soil moisture conditions. But most of Western Maryland remains abnormally dry, and moderate drought persists in Washington County and western Frederick and Montgomery counties.

Moderate drought - defined by measurements of rainfall, streamflow, soil moisture and plant health - also remains in Southern Maryland and the Lower eastern Shore, although the rains have erased the severe drought conditions that had been focused in Calvert County.

Overall, the portion of the state in moderate drought has fallen from 60 percent to 34 percent over the past week. The portion with normal conditions grew from 14 percent to 44 percent. And the portion rated "abnormally dry" decreased from 85 percent to 56 percent.

How long the good news will persist remains unknown. Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, says we're on the bubble:

"Unfortunately, our precipitation prospects are not real good," he said. "Won't take much to push the entire region right bqack into drought at the rate things are going."

(SUN PHOTO: Jed Kirschbaum, July 2010)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

July 19, 2010

Rains help some crops; corn suffers

This week's USDA Crop Progress report for Maryland is out today, and it shows recent rains in some parts of the state have helped to increase soil moisture and revive some crops. But the corn crop continues to deteriorate.

Among the comments from crop observers: "Slightly improved conditions with rain."  And "Much needed rain last week helped soybean conditions and replenished surface water ponds."

Only 17 percent of the corn crop is rated "good" or "excellent."  That's unchanged from last week. Baltimore County Farm Queen And the percentage rated "poor" or "very poor" increased from 50 percent last week to 53 percent in this week's report.

Soybeans benefited from the rains, with crops rated "poor" to "very poor" decreasing from 51 percent to 46 percent. The percentage rated "good" or "excellent" increased from 19 percent last week to 22 percent this week.

Pasturelands improved, too. The percentage rated "poor" or "very poor" declined from 55 percent last week to 51 percent this week. In the barley fields, the lowest categories declined from 21 percent to 12 percent of the crop.

The gains are evident, too, in the soils. The percentage of Maryland topsoil rated "short" or "very short" of moisture decreased from 82 percent last week to 68 percent in this week's report. Subsoil moisture in the "short" or "very short" catergories declined from 77 percent to 62 percent.

How about your garden? See any improvements? Or are the recent gains evaporating in the continuing heat?

(SUN PHOTO: by Jed Kirschbaum; Lynne Twining, Baltimore County Farm Queen, 1995)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:29 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

July 15, 2010

Rains ease drought ... a little, in some places

Drought Monitor July 13, 2010

This week's Drought Monitor map (above) is out, and it does show some drought relief for some places in Maryland, when compared with last week's map. The portion of the state in moderate or severe drought has declined from 93 percent to 85 percent.

The most-improved award goes to the Mid-Shore region, from, say the Sassafras River south to the Denton area. That section was rated abnormally dry last week is now in the clear. The portion of the state no longer considered abnormally dry increased on this week's map from 6.8 percent to 14.4 percent.

Drought Monitor USAlso improved this week are Baltimore and its immediate suburbs. The weekend rains there boosted conditions from "moderate drought" to only "abnormally dry." The percentage of the state rated at least abnormally dry declined from 93 percent to 85.6 percent on this week's map.

Still rated in moderate agricultural drought are counties north and west of the metropolitan areas, including northern Baltimore County, Carroll, Frederick, and Washington counties, as well as Howard and most of Montgomery. 

Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore showed little or no improvement despite several inches of rain in some locations. They remain in at least moderate drought. The portion of the state in moderate drought has declined slightly, from 64 percent last week to 60.5 percent this week.

And the crescent of territory centered on Calvert County that was in severe drought last week is still in that condition, according to the latest map. That region consitutes 4 percent of the state's geography.

Meanwhile, the map shows dry conditions persist in much of the mid-Atlantic region. The worst drought in the U.S. at the moment is found on the big island of Hawaii, and in northern Louisiana.

The Drought Monitor map is based on an index that takes into account measurements of such factors as rainfall, stream flow, soil moisture and plant health.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:53 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

July 8, 2010

Central Maryland now in agricultural drought


Most of Central Maryland, incuding Baltimore and the surrounding counties, are now, officially, experiencing a moderate agricultural drought (tan on the map), according to the Drought Monitor map released Thursday by NOAA.

(NOTE TO READERS: The map above will update when new Drought Monitor maps are posted in new entries above, so data on the map may no longer correspond with the text in this post. Be sure to compare the date on the map with the date of the post.)

Portions of southern Anne Arundel County, Calvert and small sections of Prince George's, Charles and St. Mary's counties, are coping with severe drought (orange), according to the map.USGS streamflow

Only Garrett County continues to enjoy normal conditions. The rest of the state (yellow)is rated as "abnormally dry."

In all, 64 percent of Maryland is now classified as being in drought, up from 37 percent last week. About 4 percent is in severe drought for the first time this year.

The drought data is compiled from a variety of data sources, including measurements of rainfall, streamflow, soil moisture and plant health. Although portions of the state are  experiencing agricultural drought conditions, water supplies have not yet fallen enough to place the region in a hydrological drought. 

Baltimore's reservoirs still hold ample supplies. But stream flows have declined, and some are now running well below normal (orange and cranberry dots on the map, above). A few are at record lows (red dots) for this time of year. And, ground water levels are falling, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:58 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

July 5, 2010

A third of Maryland now in moderate drought

Drought Monitor 

Weeks of unusually hot weather and scant rainfall have made nearly all of Maryland, including Baltimore, abnormally dry, according to the weekly Drought Monitor report compiled by the University of Nebraska. And last week's report shows that more than a third of the state had slipped into "moderate" agricultural drought conditions, an indication that some crop damage is occurring.

The worst of the dry weather has hit Southern Maryland, from northern Anne Arundel County to St. Mary's County, as well as the Lower Eastern Shore, all now classified as being in moderate agricultural drought. 

The classifications are worked out through a complex index system that incorporates a variety of inputs, including rainfall, stream flow, soil moisture and plant health. This is the first time Maryland has seen any drought conditions since last October. And, the percentage of the state affected by the current conditions is the greatest since mid-April of last year.

As warm and dry as it's been, however, and as brown as many lawns have become, the condition do not yet constitute a hydrological drought. For the Baltimore region, especially, water supplies are ample. At last check, the city's three reservoirs, which also serve much of the surrounding counties, stood at 97 percent of capacity.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:43 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 25, 2009

100-degree heat, drought, killing Texas cattle

cattle Texas droughtIt's not Maryland's weather, but it's important weather news. The deepening drought in Texas, particularly South Texas, is withering rangeland, killing cattle and posing real hardship for ranchers who did not sell off their herds early enough.

"We've had 2 inches of rain in a year's time," said Sammy Gavito, AgriLife Extension agent for Duval County, west of Corpus Christi. "We're about 22 to 23 inches below normal for the year. There isn't enough for them to eat, and it's very hot. We've had almost 50 days in row of almost 100 degrees. That's a record for us down here."

He estimated that the ranchers he spoke with had lost 3 to 5 percent of their herds already, and many of the rest are too skinny to sell at a profit.

Here's more from Texas A&M University.

(Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Sam Womble)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

April 23, 2009

Rains ends drought, but we're still "dry"


This morning's Drought Monitor map shows that recent rains have finally ended the drought conditions that had developed over the winter in as much as 80 percent of the state of Maryland. But while no part of the state is experiencing drought conditions this week, the entire state is still rated as "abnormally dry."

After extraordinarily dry conditions in February and March, BWI has recorded 5.71 inches of rain so far this month. The average April rainfall for Baltimore is 3 inches. We continue to run a paper deficit of almost 2 inches since Jan. 1. October, November and December also all saw rainfall deficits.

On the other hand, streamflow has improved, although levels are falling again in the wake of recent rains. Groundwater levels are improving, too, but some remain well below the averages for this time of year.

Concerns about whether we're really out of the woods apparently gave the Drought Monitor folks some pause. Here is a note I received today from one of the program's authors:

Continue reading "Rains ends drought, but we're still "dry" " »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

April 22, 2009

Wettest April since 1983 recharges water table

The abundant rain that began falling on March 28 (the day The Sun ran my story on the state's deepening drought) is beginning to have an impact on groundwater supplies across the state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS streamflow mapUSGS hydrologist Wendy McPherson reports today that water levels in monitoring wells and streams tracked by the agency are rising nicely. Many groundwater wells are now near normal levels for this time of year, and seem likely to continue rising.

That's the streamflow map at left. Dark blue indicates streams flowing at 90 percent of record levels for the date. Black indicates record flows. 

Wells that typically respond more slowly to rain events are behind the pace in their recovery, McPherson says. She cites a monitoring well in Baltimore County that has risen only a half-inch in the past week. It remains two feet below the level considered normal for this time of year.

"Fresh water is our most valuable resources because it is needed for all life on Earth to survive. The supply is not unlimited and we need to give water the respect it deserves and use it wisely, even when it is raining," she said.

April has so far produced 5.65 inches of rain at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. That makes it the wettest April for Baltimore in 27 years, still short of the 6.55 inches that fell during the next-wettest April, in 1983. The long-term average for April is 3 inches, Baltimore's driest month.

Ten of the 15 wettest Aprils since 1871 occurred before 1950:

1889:  8.70 inches

1952:  8.15 inches

1937:  7.92 inches

1910:  7.76 inches

1933: 7.58 inches

1895:  7.42 inches

1940:  6.99 inches

1918:  6.79 inches

1929:  6.73 inches

1874:  6.65 inches

1983:  6.55 inches 

1973:  6.41 inches

1928:  6.26 inches

1924:  5.89 inches

2009*:  5.65 inches

* Through April 21

That said, the rain is expected to continue today and this evening in the form of scattered showers and perhaps a stray thunderstorm or two late today - much like last night's window-rattler.

We're also looking at a couple of cold nights as temperatures drop toward 40, and maybe into the 30s in some spots.

But the big picture is bright. These cold, rainy disturbances being dragged out of the northwest by the northern jet stream are on their way out with the jet itself. High pressure is on tap, with sunny skies Thursday and right through the weekend. As winds around the high shift to the south and southwest, daytime highs will start to rise, reaching the 60s on Thursday, the 70s on Friday and the 80s through the weekend and on into next week.

Break out the shorts!

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:44 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

April 16, 2009

Is the drought over, already?


BWI airport has reported 4.11 inches of rain so far this month, the first monthly rain surplus since September, with more rain to come early next week. We're already 2.61 inches over the long-term averages for April to date in Baltimore. So surely the drought that began last month is over. Right?

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. This surplus has certainly reduced the moisture deficit we'd been building since October. Our garden dirt is wet, streams looked very high yesterday (although they are falling rapidly today), reservoirs surely got a boost (if they even needed one), and sagging water tables must be responding to these last three days of rain.

On the other hand, the Drought Monitor Map out this morning (above) shows no change in Maryland's status from last week's report. One hundred percent of the state remains at least "abnormally dry" on the map, and nearly 80 percent of that is still reported in "moderate drought" conditions.

But we need to take the Drought Monitor with a grain of salt. While the new map is reported on Thursday mornings, it reflects measurements that cut off at 7 a.m. on the previous Tuesday. This latest three-day rainfall began on Monday, so today's map misses most of the rain that fell on Tuesday, and all of yesterday's precipitation. So things may not be as dry as they look on the map. We only need to look outdoors to reach that conclusion.

So we may need to wait until next Thursday to get a truer reading on where we stand. And by then we will have received more rain, some of which will probably not show up on the next map for all the same reasons.

Whatever. The rain has certainly been good news. It's helped. A lot. And there's more on the way. That's all good.

As for the numbers, Pasadena wins the rainfall lottery for Wednesday, reporting more than 1.5 inches this morning for the last 24 hours. We had 1.17 inches here at The Sun. And out on the WeatherDeck in Cockeysville, my total for the three days came to 1.9 inches. Here are some measurements from across the state.

The forecast, meanwhile, remains terrific. Sunny skies into Sunday, with temperatures in the 60s to low 70s.

One caution: clear skies tonight will mean rapid radiational cooling. Some normally colder locations west of the metro areas could see some patchy frost tonight as temperatures sink into the 30s. If you already have tender plants growing outdoors, you know what to do.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:13 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

March 30, 2009

Weekend rain helps, but not much


This graph of the streamflow in the Little Patuxent River shows that the weekend's rain did help to boost the amount of water in the river. But the benefit did not last long, and water levels quickly began to fall back toward previous levels. In short, the rain was welcome, but it has not ended the dry conditions thast state faces as spring arrives.

Rainfall at BWI totaled 1.27 inches from Thursday through Sunday. That brought the month's total to 2.07 inches. That's a big boost from where we stood at this time last week. But it remains 1.63 inches below the long-term average for March. So we continue to sink deeper into a moisture deficit.

Here's how USGS hydrologist Dan Soeder put it to me this morning:

"The weekend rain helped some, but the National Weather Service is still showing us in a precipitation deficit.

"The USGS has not changed the designation of the Mid-Atlantic region as being under a moderate drought ("Streamflows responded to the weekend rain as expected by rising, but most are now falling rapidly. Smaller streams like the Little Patuxent (graph above) are showing a drop off in flow that appears to be trending back toward below normal levels. Bigger watersheds like the Potomac ( show a steadier increase in flow from the weekend rain, but are still below normal. The low streamflows are related to groundwater deficits.

"High water tables in the spring generally produce more robust base flows.

"Our water tables are not as high as they should be, thus making base flows (the streamflow between runoff events) lower than normal.

"Groundwater levels in the Coastal Plain have not yet responded to the rain. It's a little too soon for the water to have made its way to the water table, but maybe we will see a rise in groundwater in a week or so.

"Piedmont aquifers have responded in some cases, showing once again that flow through fractured rocks is much faster than flow through porous sediments. Gentle rains with cool temperatures will help to recharge groundwater levels."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

March 27, 2009

It's official: 52 percent of Maryland in drought


The Drought Monitor Map for this week is out, and it shows parts of Maryland are now experiencing "moderate" drought conditions. The rest of the state is rated "abnormally dry."

The measurements were taken on Tuesday, so the rating does not reflect yesterday's rain. And there is more rain due this weekend. But hydrologists do not believe the latest rainfall will significantly impact the dry conditions that have been deepening since last October.

Don Soeder, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Baltimore, says this year's setup looks a bit like the months leading into the record-breaking drought of 2002, although he does not believe this will be as severe. We'll have more on the drought in Saturday's print editions.

The good news is that Baltimore's reservoir system remains in good shape. It stands at 91 percent of capacity. Loch Raven and Prettyboy are full or nearly so. Liberty Reservoir is at 85 percent, and looks a bit parched where Md. 140 crosses the north end out at the Baltimore County/Carroll County line. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:39 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drought

March 25, 2009

On well water? Time to worry ...


As the dry weather continues in Maryland, hydrologists are beginning to worry about falling water tables. The U.S. Geological Survey's monitoring wells in Baltimore and Frederick counties have been falling since mid-February - a period when they should be continuing their winter recharge.

Once things green up, plants and trees will be taking up much of whatever precipitation we receive, diverting it from reaching the streams and groundwater on which well water depends.

"This is of concern," the USGS said yesterday. "If dry conditions persist in the region into the summer, some shallow domestic wells may be unable to supply sufficient water to meet demands."

Those of us on public water systems have less to worry about, for now. Baltimore's reservoirs remain in good shape for this time of year, public works officials have said. And municipal systems that rely on well water generally tap into deeper aquifers that are less vulnerable to year-to-year weather events. (Although those aquifers, too, have been falling for years due simply to rising demand and recharge cycles measured in decades or centuries.)

In the map above, the dark brown color shows where 7-day average streamflow is running at 5 percent or less of historical averages for this time of year.

For the moment, at least, the forecast looks rainier than it did yesterday. There's a little on tap for tonight, and as much as a half-inch due tomorrow. But we remain almost 10 inches in arrears for the first three months of the year.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

March 19, 2009

90 percent of Maryland now "abnormally dry"


The dry conditions that have been creeping northward across Maryland this winter have finally engulfed the Baltimore region, and now encompass the entire state west of Allegany County.

The weekly Drought Monitor map, released Thursday morning, shows that conditions in almost 90 percent of the state are now classified as "abnormally dry." This is the most extensive area to be so classified since the fall of 2007, as the state's last major drought began to wane. No part of the state is yet considered to be experiencing drought conditions.

As recently as Feb. 3, the Drought Monitor map showed normal moisture across 100 percent of Maryland's territory. Today, Baltimore's reservoirs are reported to be in good shape, but Maryland streamflow is at or near record low levels for this time of year. Only about an inch of melted precipitation has fallen at BWI since Feb. 1. The airport has not seen a rainfall surplus since September.

The Drought Monitor map combines a variety of measurements to classify regions affected by dry weather and drought. They include measurements of soil moisture, temperature, streamflow, precipitation and the health of vegetation as measured by satellite imagery.

By "abnormally dry," the drought map refers to short-term dryness that may slow planting and growth of crops or pasturelands. Fire risk is above average.

The dry conditions in Maryland prevail at the northeastern end of a large arc of the country - from the West Coast through Texas to Florida and the mid-Atlantic states - now experiencing dry conditions or drought of varied intensity.

The 7-day forecast for Baltimore shows only showers today, amounting to less than a tenth of an inch, followed by dry weather at least through the middle of next week.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

March 11, 2009

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.


Continue reading "Dry weather digs in" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:51 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

February 25, 2009

Shore counties get drought disaster okay

Crop losses during last year's drought were sufficient in the northern counties of the Eastern Shore to win a drought disaster declaration from the federal government. Farmers in those counties and those immediately adjacent will be eligible to apply for low-cost loans and other benefits.

Here is today's news release from the Maryland Department of Agriculture:

Maryland Receives Federal Crop Disaster Designation for Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne's Counties due to Drought

ANNAPOLIS, MD (Feb. 25, 2009) - Governor Martin O'Malley has received
notification from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas J.
Vilsack that Maryland's request for a disaster designation for crop
losses due to a drought during the 2008 growing season has been
approved.  The February 19 letter stated that there were sufficient
production losses in Cecil, Kent, Caroline, and Queen Anne's counties to
warrant a Secretarial disaster designation.  The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) estimated production losses to be $29 million for hay and grain crops.

"Because farmers in the four northernmost Eastern Shore counties
experienced significant crop losses, we requested a disaster designation
and thank Secretary Vilsack for granting it," said Governor O'Malley.
"It is our hope that the designation will provide relief to the farmers
who need it and help them prepare for the upcoming growing season."

"Rainfall on the Eastern Shore was spotty last summer causing some
areas to have a normal crop while other, sometimes adjacent land,
received almost none and had failing crops," said Roger Richardson,
Secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. 

This designation makes farm operators in the four primary counties as
well as contiguous counties - Dorchester, Harford and Talbot counties -
eligible to be considered for assistance from the USDA Farm Service
Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.  This assistance
includes FSA emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance
Program which was approved as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

USGSRainfall departures from normal based on National Weather
Service-gathered rain gauge reports between May 28 and November 23 of
this year were: Cecil County -1.0 inch; Kent County -3.0 inches; Queen
Anne's County - 2.8 inches; Caroline County -4.2 inches."

Much of the state is dry again this month. Here (left) are today's streamflow data from the USGS. The  dark red and bright red dots indicate record or near-record low volumes for this time of year.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

May 29, 2008

Maryland not even "dry" anymore

In case there's still a soul out there who hasn't already figured this out, the drought of 2007-08 in Maryland is finished. Washed out. In fact, there's not an acre in the state that remains even "abnormally dry" according to the latest Drought Monitor map, out this morning.

The nearest spot with soil moisture, streamflow, rainfall or foliage health that still registers as "dry" is a speck of territory in the far southern end of West Virginia. Beyond that, moderate to extreme drought persists in the western counties of the Carolinas. But even that has moderated some in recent weeks.

We've gone from no drought at all on June 19, 2007, to a high of 87 percent of the state back on Oct. 9. Conditions began to improve in December, but even as recently as March 4, nearly half the state (47 percent) was still reporting drought conditions. But ample rains since dropped that percentage to zero by mid-May. Here are the details

We can thank an extraordinarily wet May - the second-wettest on record here since they began keeping track in 1871. There's more rain in the forecast for Saturday, so we may yet challenge the record of 8.71 inches, set back in 1989.

Anyway, here's a nifty animation of the drought as it waned during 2008. You can watch the 2007 animation by clicking here.

 Drought Monitor

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:55 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

April 29, 2008

April rain surplus tops 1.8 inches

Rain over the last three days has brought the month's total to more than 4.6 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. That's more than 1.8 inches of surplus for the month through Monday, and brings the deficit since Jan. 1 down to less than an inch. 

Here are the monthly surpluses (+) and deficits (-):

Jan.: -2.00 inches

Feb.: +0.78 inch

March: -1.56 inches

April: +1.84 inches (through Monday)

The 4.6-inch total for April also makes this the wettest April since ... well, since last year, when we absorbed 5 inches of rain. Normal for a complete April at BWI is 3 inches, but we've topped 4 inches of rain in April only seven times since 1980.

Here are some rain measurements for yesterday from around the region.

Maryland streamflow is abundant for the time being. Here's the realtime flow map. And groundwater reserves continue to rise.

Here's the chart for that monitoring well out in Granite, Baltimore County, we like to track. Looks like their gear failed Sunday just as the latest rains began. But it's up about 4 inches since April 1.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

April 24, 2008

Drought in So. Maryland recedes

The new Drought Monitor map is in this morning. As expected, it shows the recent rainfall (and there's more to come) has shrunk the region of the state that's still experiencing moderate drought conditions (tan on the map), from 27 percent to 22 percent.

Meanwhile, the region that is rated "abnormally dry" (yellow plus tan) has diminished from 51 percent to 36 percent. The portion of the state enjoying normal soil moisture and streamflow (white on the map) - including Baltimore and its suburbs - has jumped from 49 percent last week, to 63 percent this week. 

Streamflow looks better across most of the state, too. And the forecast promises more moisture this weekend, into Monday. Bad news for outdoor plans, but good news for gardens, crops, reservoirs and water tables. Here's a 30-day chart for a USGS monitoring well in Granite, Baltimore County.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

April 22, 2008

Rains continue to boost reservoirs

Monday was the rainiest day at BWI-Marshall Airport since Feb. 1, and the improving precipitation picture is having the desired effect on the Baltimore region's reservoir system.

Rainfall over the past two days at BWI totaled 1.97 inches. That pushed the month's total to 3.25 inches, which is a quarter-inch wetter than the average April for the period 1971-2000. Monday's total was 1.32 inches. That was not quite a record for the date. Baltimore received 1.41 inches on April 21, 1918. 

Streamflow across the state is back in normal ranges, for now. But we remain in deficit for the calendar year-to-date, by about 2.5 inches.

The city's Department of Public Works reports the reservoir system is currently at more than 88 percent of its capacity, with more than 75 billion gallons in storage. That's up from 64 percent back in December, when authorities decided the continuing drought made it prudent to tap the Susquehanna River as a way to preserve supplies in the reservoirs.

Liberty Reservoir currently stands at 87 percent of capacity, up from 82 percent last month. Prettyboy is at 86 percent, up from 75 percent last month. Loch Raven stands at nearly 98 percent, up from 95 percent in March.

The new Drought Monitor map is being calculated today, and will be released Thursday morning. Here's how one of the city's reservoirs looked last fall.

Jed Kirschbaum 2007 

  Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

April 10, 2008

Drought eases on Lower Shore


The new Drought Monitor map is out this morning, and it shows that recent rains - which have been more abundant to our south and east - have eased the severe drought conditions that have prevailed on the Lower Shore for many weeks.

In fact, "severe" drought conditions - which had encompassed more than 17 percent of the state - have entirely disappeared from this week's drought map. It's the first time since November that severe drought conditions have not been noted anywhere in Maryland. The assessments take into consideration rainfall, streamflow, soil moisture and plant health as assessed by satellite monitoring. 

That said, 27 percent of the state - in extreme Southern Maryland and the Lower Shore (tan on the map) - remains in "moderate" drought, including all the territory that had previously been ranked "severe."

And "abnormally dry" conditions (yellow) persist south of Baltimore, on both sides of the Bay.

But as damp as it has seemed, many streams in Maryland continue to run below their averages for this time of year. The fact is, we have not had abundant rainfall. What has fallen as been light - mostly drizzle and showers measured in fractions of an inch.

The forecast promises more of the same. Showers are likely again by late tomorrow, continuing through Saturday and perhaps into the evening. We'll see just a few more fractions of an inch, or more if thunderstorms break out. On the other hand, temperatures will be more springlike, reaching into the 70s today and tomorrow and Saturday before cooler weather returns. We could see temps in the 30s again by Sunday night after a cold front gets by us.

The norms for this time of year at BWI call for highs in the mid-60s, and lows in the low 40s.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

March 13, 2008

Last week's rain helped; drought persists

 Drought Monitor

BWI picked up almost an inch and a half of rain last week. Other parts of the state saw even more, and the impact can be seen on this week's Drought Monitor map. It's out this morning, and reflects soil moisture, rain, and streamflow as of this past Tuesday.

The numbers show significant improvement, but extreme southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore remain in some drought distress.

Rain reduced the "severe" drought zone in parts of Worcester and Wicomico counties. The percentage of the state experiencing severe drought slipped from 11.5 percent to 9.6 percent.

Conditions in the Baltimore area also improved. The northern tier of counties from Garrett, through Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil are once again enjoying normal moisture conditions, an increase from 31 percent of the state on last week's map, to 49 percent today. The gains allowed Baltimore City last week to shut off the flow of supplementary water from the Susquehanna River.

"Moderate" drought conditions, which prevailed last week from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge southward to St. Mary's County and Hooper's Island on the Eastern Shore, is limited now to extreme Southern Maryland and Dorchester County on the Shore.

Overall, just 51 percent of the state is still contending with "abnormally dry" or drought conditions, down from almost 69 percent last week.

On well water? Groundwater conditions are slowly improving, too. Here's a fresh look at the water table in a USGS monitoring well in Granite, Baltimore County. The record low on this well is 28.2 feet, reached in 2002. The median for this time of year is between 22 and 23 feet below the surface. It's currently at 25 feet and change. Still low, but climbing.


Continue reading "Last week's rain helped; drought persists" »

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:08 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

February 14, 2008

A February water surplus

Yesterday's snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain pushed us over the 30-year average for precipitation in February. But we still haven't done much to reverse the 9-inch deficit we've accumulated since last April.

The NWS instruments at BWI recorded 1.44 inches of precipitation on Tuesday and Wednesday. That brought the month's total to 3.27 inches, a quarter-inch over the 30-year average of 3.02 inches for February. But deficits for seven of the previous nine months have left us with less reserve than we want heading into a new growing season and summer heat.

Here's how the precipitation totals stack up as departures from the longterm averages. Negative numbers are deficits, positive numbers are surpluses:

May 2007:  -2.95 inches

June 2007:  -1.23 inches

July: 2007:  -0.54 inch

August 2007:  -0.66 inch

September 2007:  -3.63 inches

October 2007:  +2.69 inches

November 2007: -1.60 inches

December 2007:  +0.68 inch

January 2008:  -2.00 inches

February 2008*: +0.25 inch

Total: -8.99 inches

* through 2/13/2008

Here's this week's Drought Monitor map, which does not reflect the recent precipitation.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 2:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

December 20, 2007

Drought relief doesn't reach Lower Shore

The latest Drought Monitor map is out today, and it indicates no change in the proportion of Maryland still experiencing moderate to severe drought.

The map shows nearly 36 percent of Maryland - the Lower Shore and Southern Maryland - is still considered in drought, despite the recent rainfall. Almost 20 percent of the state, from Dorchester County south, and in extreme southern Calvert and lower St. Mary's counties on the Western Shore, remains in "extreme" drought, based on readings of streamflow, rainfall and soil moisture. That's all unchanged from the previous week's map.

The improvement in the past week has come farther north, where the northern tier of Maryland counties enjoyed some reductions in the portion of their real estate rated as "abnormally dry." The portion rated "normal" grew from 32 percent to 40 percent of the state.

Here's some data on streamflow across the state. Here's the status of groundwater in a monitoring well in Baltimore County. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

December 13, 2007

Drought eases in northern counties

Maybe it was last week's snowfall. Whatever the explanation, the proportion of Maryland experiencing drought conditions has eased, according to the USDA's Drought Monitor map released this morning.

First, the region of Maryland where soil moisture, streamflow and precipitation add up to normal conditions for this time of year expanded from 11 percent to 32 percent of the state. The improvement appears to have come mainly in the northern tier, from northern Frederick, Carroll and Baltimore counties, to Harford and Cecil.

Abnormally dry conditions - or worse - now prevail in just 67 percent of the state, down from 88 percent on last week's map. Moderate to severe drought conditions prevail in almost 36 percent of the state, mainly south of the Bay Bridge on both sides of the Chesapeake. That's down from 63 percent last week.

The section still in severe drought - 20 percent of the state - includes the Lower Eastern Shore and extreme Southern Maryland. That's unchanged.

The USGS hydrological drought map is a bit different, reflecting only below-normal streamflow across the state. But the southern portions of the state are again the most severely affected.

This week's rain and snow or ice should improve things a bit more. But a great deal of precipitation is still needed throughout the region to bring groundwater and reservoirs back to where they need to be as we head into the next growing season.

Here's a full report from the USGS in Maryland.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

December 12, 2007

How dry are we? A closer look

As drippy as it's been, it's easy to forget we're still in a drought. That's why yesterday's announcement from Baltimore water authorities - that they will be tapping the Susquehanna River next week to augment water supplies from the city's three reservoirs - came as a surprise to some.

How dry are we? Here are some facts from the U.S. Geological Survey:

RAINFALL: Although Baltimore (BWI) is about 7.5 inches behind the long-term average rainfall for this year, the deficit is more critical on the Eastern Shore. Since January, Worcester County has fallen 13 inches short of the average precipitation. Somerset and Wicomico are 11 inches in the red. So are Howard and Montgomery counties on the other side of the Bay.

STREAMFLOW: Three Maryland streams broke all-time low-flow records for November. The Patuxent, measured at Unity, busted a 63-year-old record, with a flow rate of 8.24 cubic feet per second. The average since 1944 is 22.8 cf/s. Nassawango Creek on the Eastern Shore broke a record that had stood since 1949. And St. Clement's Creek, in St. Mary's County, broke a 39-year-old record.

GROUNDWATER: Wells monitored by the USGS in Carroll and Harford counties reached record low levels for November. Groundwater levels were below normal in 17 of the 25 shallow, unconfined wells the agency watches. Another eight wells were at very low levels, including one in Baltimore County. The lowest levels were noted on Delmarva.

RESERVOIRS: Although the water in Baltimore's three reservoirs is now falling below 66 percent of capacity - triggering the decision to tap the Susquehanna - the level in Prettyboy has dropped to 53 percent. Prettyboy is used to feed the Gunpowder River, which flows to Loch Raven Reservoir and keeps it high enough to feed water to the Montebello filtration plant. Loch Raven was at 81 percent of capacity at the end of November. Liberty Reservoir, which feeds the Ashburton filtration plant, stood at 73 percent of capacity.

The Patuxent Reservoirs which serve Montgomery and Prince George's counties, are lower, at a combined 52 percent of capacity. Tridelphia stood at 60 percent at month's end. The Duckett reservoir was at 39 percent.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

Drought? What drought?

Sure, we're short of rain around here, and the creeks and wells are low, and they're already tapping the Susquehanna River to ease the pressure on Baltimore's reservoirs. But this isn't Atlanta. I received this email this morning from former Marylander Janice Nuckols:

"You should come here to Atlanta!  County I live in has had mandatory water restrictions for 2 years.  I’m seriously considering planting cactus next year.  I’ve called the “water police” on people who wash their cars or use water outdoors.  Can’t water outdoors, nurseries are going bankrupt and landscapers are out of jobs.  Car washes can only operate if they recycle the water. 

"We’re 20” down for the year.  They say next year isn’t any better.  Our governor and Alabama and Florida fight over water all the time.

"A few weeks ago I saw people buying 5 gallon bottles of water to stock pile in the grocery store.

"A couple of months ago, Stone Mountain was making snow with millions of gallons of water for a winter attraction on a day that was 80 degrees.  The outrage from people was unreal.  Stone Mountain stopped making the snow. 

"All the fountains in downtown Atlanta are off and the Braves can’t maintain the grass playing field unless they prove that they’re using stored water that is kept under the surface in tanks. "The reservoir that supplies water to county I live in is all but dried up.  Wells are drying up and people who live in subdivisions and have “city water” are drilling wells.  The governor has prayer time where they pray for rain on the steps of the capital in downtown Atlanta. "You learn to conserve real fast.  There’s a big push for low flow toilets here.  Numerous counties are offering rebates if yo install them.  I learned from dought in NY back in the 60’s and 70’s that bricks work well to save water in toilet.  Also that little saying “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”!

"I grew up in MD and spent summers in NY.  Just remember all those subdivisions that have been built in northern Balto Co and Carroll County are culprits.  I know here in the 10 years I’ve live in Georiga the suburban sprawl is unreal.  Unfortunately they don’t plan for much here.  I read the other day that the government doesn’t have a drought plan “on the books”.    Hopefully you’ll get snow this winter.  It’s been almost 80 here all week long.  Might rain, 30% for a while tomorrow."

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drought

November 9, 2007

MD drought a little worse

Maybe this little drizzle will help, but the drought in Maryland grew a little worse over the past week. The federal government's latest Drought Monitor map is out, and it shows that 88 percent of Maryland remains abnormally dry, or worse.

The percentage of the state that remains in moderate hydrological (water supply) drought grew from 35 percent to 42 percent. The segment with normal conditions shrank from 15 percent to 11 percent.

Streamflow across central Maryland remains at or near record-low levels. And the USGS monitoring wells continue to decline. Here's a graph showing the decline in a well in Baltimore County, which resumed quickly after last month's rainfall. 



Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:42 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

November 1, 2007

Rains eased worst of Maryland drought

The weekly Drought Monitor map is in, and it shows dramatic improvement from the previous week, thanks to five days of rain last week. But the drought persists across more than a third of the state.

Last week's rains erased all traces of "extreme" drought from the state's map. It had climbed to 66 percent by the 23rd, which was the day the rains started falling here.

The portion of the state still rated in "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture fell this week from 87 percent to just 35 percent. Most of that is concentrated in Southern Maryland and the southern half of the Eastern Shore. There's also a pocket of severe drought persisting in southern Frederick, western Montgomery and western Howard counties.

Eighty-four percent of the state continues to experience abnormally dry conditions, or worse, however. Only 15 percent enjoys normal moisture, up from 6.8 percent last week.

These ratings are based on a combination of factors, including soil moisture, stream flow, rainfall and satellite assessments of vegetation health.

In the meantime, the USGS reports stream flow across the state has improved, but many continue to be well below normal levels for this time of year. And ground water recovery has been uneven. This Baltimore County well clearly got a bump from last week's rains, but has quickly resumed its downward slippage since.

We still need more rain. The months of November through April are when the reservoirs and groundwater resources need to recharge. Evaporation is down, consumption is down and plant life isn't using as much water, so more flows into our reserves. But it still needs to fall from the sky first to be of any benefit.

The next opportunity for some rain? Sorry. None in the forecast. And Tropical Storm Noel is headed out to sea.

In the meantime, the feds have just launched a new Web site that brings together a wealth of information and data about the ongoing drought here and in other parts of the country. Here's the link.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

October 18, 2007

Maryland drought deepens - USGS

Low flow in the Patuxent - USGS 

The U.S. Geological Survey has issued a sobering new release on Maryland's deepening drought conditions. Here it is in full:

"The drought continues to intensify in parts of Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, with many area streams reaching record to near-record low flows. Ground-water levels also continue to fall. According to hydrologists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the areas most strongly affected by the drought include Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland, Central Maryland, the lower Eastern Shore, and southern Delaware, although even the mountains of Western Maryland and the West Virginia panhandle are feeling the effects.

"Dry conditions in the Mid-Atlantic are part of a larger, regional drought affecting the southeastern United States, centered on northern Georgia and western South Carolina. Although declining streamflows and falling water tables are expected in late summer and early autumn, by mid-October the ground water normally begins to recharge. This year, the abnormally dry summer has been followed by an equally dry autumn, and ground-water levels continue to decline. Fortunately, normal precipitation throughout the previous winter and spring had appreciably recharged ground water, so the decline is not as severe as it could have been. If the dry weather continues through the winter/spring recharge period this year, however, ground-water levels and streamflow could be severely impacted by next summer.

"Record low flows have been measured by USGS scientists in the Monocacy River in Frederick County, the Patuxent River in Montgomery County, Piscataway Creek in Charles County, Winters Run in Harford County, the Choptank River in Caroline County and Nassawango Creek in Worcester County. Low flow in the Patuxent is breaking previous monthly records set during in 1986, and flow on the Monocacy broke a monthly record set in 1963. Piscataway Creek had no measurable flow for the month of October, and has set a new record low. Information on water conditions in the MD-DE-DC area is available on the web at:

"Several streams that did respond to a brief runoff event several weeks ago from scattered local showers, such as the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River, quickly returned to low flow conditions within a matter of hours. Reagan National Airport has recorded only a trace of rain since October 1, and BWI has recorded 0.13 inches over the same period, with less than a half inch total since September 1. Normal rainfall for the first two weeks of October should be nearly 2 inches. Rain forecast for this weekend is expected to help, but will not alleviate the drought.

"Water levels in five of the 22 observation wells monitored by the USGS in Maryland and Delaware reached record monthly lows for October, breaking previous record lows from the mid-1980's. A water-table well near LaPlata in Charles County is at an all-time low, and also set record lows in September and July.

"Prior to the last drought in 2002, there were several months in the autumn of 2001 in which precipitation was significantly below normal. This is the time of year when ground-water usually begins to recharge. Precipitation remained abnormally low throughout that winter, with only 0.36 inches of rain recorded at BWI in February 2002. By March, rainfall had returned to near-normal, but the lack of winter ground-water recharge resulted in water shortages that summer. The drought ended with significant above-normal rainfall in October 2002.

"This year, above-normal precipitation in the fall and early winter of 2006 fully recharged the ground water, bringing water tables up to normal. Both May and September 2007 were very dry months, with less than one inch of rain each. Adequate ground-water levels provided ample water supplies through the dry May, but by September, water tables had declined. September 2007 was the fourth-driest on record, and both ground-water levels and streamflows have been dropping rapidly. Water levels for October 2007 will be record-setting unless there is a major storm.

"Water supplies in the Baltimore City reservoirs and in the Potomac Basin are reported to be generally adequate. The USGS will begin more frequent monitoring of ground-water levels in response to the abnormally dry conditions, and data will be available again in early November"

You can read more about it here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

October 12, 2007

More drops in the bucket

NWS instruments at BWI clocked in a few more drops of rain overnight - a paltry 0.03 inch of the wet stuff. That brings the October total out there to all of 0.13 inch. And that's barely a third of what we had in September - 0.35 inch - which was a tenth of the normal rainfall for Baltimore in September.

Other locations - all "unofficial" - around the region, however, received more. Our gauge here at The Sun, on Calvert & Centre streets, recorded just 0.11 inch, most after midnight, bringing the three-day total to 0.49 inch. I forgot to check the WeatherDeck this morning because, quite honestly, I didn't know it had rained until I walked out to the car. 

Here are some readings from around the area. And here are some from farther afield.

But that's it for the foreseeable weather future. There is nothing in the forecast but sunshine and starlight, right into next week. All I can offer is more gorgeous autumn weather. Sorry.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

October 5, 2007

State urges Marylanders to conserve water

Drought regions - MDE 

 The Maryland Department of the Environment has taken official notice of the deepening drought in Maryland. The MDE today issued a "Drought Watch" for communities in the Central and Eastern regions of the state - indicated by the deep blue and yellow colors on the map above. They extend from Frederick County east to Cecil, south to Howard and Baltimore, and the entire Eastern Shore.

Excluded from the watch are communities served by the Baltimore City and Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission water systems (green and light blue on the map). The two systems' water reserves are still considered "adequate."

The drought watch is the first stage in the state's Drought Management Plan. It does not impose any mandatory water bans, but steps up public oversight of water supplies and urges residents to monitor their own water use and conserve "whenever possible."

If the dry weather continues, the governor could issue a "Drought Warning," or declare a "Drought Emergency," which would impose mandatory restrictions on water use across all or parts of the state. 

Some localities in Maryland have already imposed local water restrictions because of diminishing groundwater reserves from the dry weather, which began in mid-April. AT BWI, precipitation totals are now more than 9 inches below normal for the year.

During the last major drought in Maryland, in 2001-2002, dropping water supplies caused then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening to declare a Drought Warning in January 2002 for 15 counties in Central and Eastern Maryland. Baltimore began drawing water from the Susquehanna River to preserve its own reservoir supplies. In April, with rain fall 13 inches below normal since the previous September, he declared a Drought Emergency in Central Maryland but excluded communities served by the Baltimore and Washington water systems.

In August 2002, the Baltimore reservoirs were at their lowest levels in history - 47 percent of capacity. The governor tightened water use restrictions and expanded them to include the urban regions. Some Maryland communities began planning to truck water in, while others imposed bans on new construction.

In October 2002, six inches of rain fell on the region, the wettest October in seven years. The wet weather continued, bans were lifted and by June 2003, the city's reservoirs were back at capacity.

Here's the Drought Monitor map for Maryland, showing that almost half the state is now in a "Severe" agricultural drought. And here the hydrological drought map, showing where stream flow has been most severely affected. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

October 4, 2007

Half of Md. now in "severe" drought

It's been 19 days since any measureable rain has fallen at BWI, and nearly half the state is now in "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's up from less than one percent last week.

The latest USDA Drought Monitor map is out this morning, and it shows only Garrett County enjoying normal moisture, based on measures of rainfall, soil moisture, stream flow and satellite data on damage to vegetation.

Ninety-three percent of the state is experiencing at least "abnormally dry conditions. "Moderate" drought or worse persists across 86 percent of the state, and 47 percent - from southern Frederick, Howard Montgomery, Arundel and all of Southern Maryland to most of the Eastern Shore south of the Bay Bridge - is in "severe" drought.

Our drought is an extension of even more severe conditions that continue to parch the Deep South, especially from Kentucky and Tennessee, to the Carolinas and Alabama.

Stream flows and groundwater levels in Maryland have begun to reach record lows, and much of the state, on both sides of the bay, is in a "severe" hydrological drought, according to the US Geological Survey.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

October 1, 2007

Md. streams, wells touch record lows

Real-time streamflow - USGS 

The deepening drought sent flow rates in four Maryland streams, and levels in three groundwater monitoring wells to record lows in September, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The red dots on the map above show where stream gauges are recording record-low flows today. The data on the new Maryland records should be posted on the agency's Maryland Web site on Wednesday. Here are the highlights:

Gauges on the Monocacy River at Bridgeport in northern Frederick County, hit a 64-year low last month, with an average flow of just 1.8 cubic feet per second. That broke the previous record low of 2.3 cf/s, set in 1943. The average September flow there is 21.1 cf/s.

On Nassawango Creek, near Snow Hill, the average flow last month was 1.3 cf/s, breaking the record low of 1.6 cf/s, set there in 1980. The average September flow since records began in 1949 is 8.3 cf/s.

The Patuxent River gauge near Unity, in Montgomery County, set a new record of 2.9 cf/s last month. That broke the prior record low flow of 3.8 cf/s set there in 2002. Record keeping at that gauge began in 1944. The average flow there in September is 16.2 cf/s.

And on Winters Run, in Harford County, the USGS gauge recorded a new low flow of 9.9 cf/s, busting the old record opf 10.4 cf/s set in 1986. The average flow in September there is 27.9 cf/s.

Three groundwater monitoring wells in Charles, Carroll and Wicomico counties also reached record September lows last month, according to USGS hydrologist Wendy McPherson. 

In Charles County, groundwater dropped to 11.48 feet below ground level, breaking the odl record of 11.05 feet, set in 2002. The average is 9.12 feet.

In Carroll, the well water dropped to a record 4.62 feet below the surface, just breaking the old record of 4.59 feet, also set in 2002. The September average is 3.71 feet.

In Wicomico, water in the the USGS well fell to 8.86 feet below the surface, breaking the previous record of 8.60 feet, set in 1995. The average there in September is 6.61 feet.

Nearly 90 percent of the state was in moderate or severe agricultural drought last week, according to the Department of Agriculture's Drought Monitor.  Here's the USGS map for hydrological drought, which shows both the Eastern Shore and the Western Shore in severe drought. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:48 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

September 13, 2007

Drought damage loan fund taking applications

Loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate drought-related business losses are now available from the Maryland Agricultural and Resource Based Industry Development Corp. Any Maryland farms or rural businesses tied to farming are eligible to apply if they can document losses due to the 2007 drought. The application deadline is Dec. 15. Here's the link.
Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

September 6, 2007

Maryland drought creeps north

This week's Drought Monitor map is out, and it shows the moderate drought conditions confined last week to Southern Maryland and the southern Eastern Shore, have crept north this week.

Arundel and Prince George's counties are now within the zone experiencing moderate drought conditions, as measured by streamflow, rainfall, soil moisture and vegetation damage. So is almost the entire Eastern Shore south of Kent County. The rest of the state is rated "abnormally dry," with the exception of Garrett and extreme western Allegany counties, where conditions are normal.

Overall, the portion of the state experiencing drought conditions has increased this week from 31.2 percent to 47.9 percent - nearly half. Only 8.4 percent enjoys normal moisture, unchanged from last week. 

Here's the national drought map, which shows the continuing severe and extreme conditions in the Southeast.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 30, 2007

Md. drought continues to ease

The latest Drought Monitor map from the US Department of Agriculture shows that the summer's drought has continued to ease in the past week. Here's the new map, out this morning. 

Although more than 90 percent of Maryland remains at least "abnormally dry," as measured by rainfall, stream flow, soil moisture and satellite measures of the health of vegetation, the proportion of the state's land area still experiencing drought conditions has fallen dramatically, from 78.8 percent a week ago to just 31.2 percent this week.

 University of Maryland

The regions still in moderate drought include Southern Maryland, from southern Prince George's and Calvert counties south to Charles and St. Mary's, as well as the southern portions of the Eastern Shore, roughly from Cambridge and the Choptank River south and east to the ocean and the Virginia line.

For the first time in many weeks, there are no signs of "severe" drought anywhere in Maryland, down from 7.4 percent last week and 55 percent the week before that.

The slow recovery comes too late, of course, for many Maryland farmers, who have lost much of their harvest for the year. As the graph above shows, drought is by far the most common cause of crop loss in Maryland. An agricultural drought disaster has been declared for the entire state. But suburban lawns, at least, have begun to green up again, and the summer buzz of lawn mowers has returned to the land.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 24, 2007

Rains ease MD drought

Recent rains across Maryland have eased the worst of the drought that has been spreading and deepening all summer. But more than 92 percent of state remains under unusually dry to severe drought conditions, only slightly improved from last week (96 percent).

Data from the USDA's weekly Drought Monitor map shows the portion of Maryland that's enjoying normal, rains, streamflows and soil moisture is in Garrett County. It constitutes just 7.5 percent of the state, but that's an improvement from the 4 percent in that category last week.

The portion of Maryland that's in moderate to severe drought still amounts to 78.8 percent of the state, up slightly from last week (78.2 percent).

But that portion of the drought-stricken region where conditions are rated "severe" has fallen dramatically in the past week - from 55.7 percent to just 7.4 percent of the entire state. Most of that territory is in Charles and St. Mary's counties. Severe drought conditions have eased to moderate for much of the state, from Washington County eastward to the lower Eastern Shore. Since Sunday, BWI has recorded 1.69 inches of rain. Some locations saw more than 2 inches.

The USDA uses data from rainfall, streamflow, soil moisture and satellite-based reckoning of vegetation damage to calculate the drought index, and construct the weekly maps.

While conditions may have improved with the recent rains, it's too late for many of Maryland's farmers. A federal drought disaster has been declared for the entire state, making low-interest loans and other assistance available to many farmers. Read more here.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 3:21 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 16, 2007

MD drought slightly worse

The USDA's new Drought Monitor map for this week is out. It shows that the extent of Maryland's geography affected by moderate to severe drought has increased a bit sinc elast week, despite some teaser rain showers. Only northwestern Garrett County has returned to normal conditions since last week. Here's the map.

Just over 78 percent of Maryland is now experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, as measured by streamflow, rainfall, soil moisture and satellite-based measurements of damage to vegetation. That is up from 75 percent during the last two weeks.

The portion of the state in severe drought has increased from 50 percent to just over 55 percent.

About 18 percent of the state, including Baltimore, is considered to be merely "abnormally dry." The corner of Garrett County that has returned to normal moisture levels constitutes just 4 percent of the state.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:36 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

August 6, 2007

Is your well getting low?

Marylanders who rely on well water may be noticing their water tables are falling. Or at least they're worrying about their water and limiting their washing and sprinkling and flushing as a result.

The US Geological Survey has identified two Maryland monitoring wells that dropped to record lows by last month. The first is in Frederick County, the other in Charles County. Data collection at those wells only goes back to the 1980s, so we can't say these are historic lows, exactly. But hydrologists say the levels seen last month were lower than during the drought in 2002, which was pretty severe. 

Here's the data for the Frederick well. Here's the same for the Charles well.

If the drought continues, more monitoring wells are expected to touch record lows. And more families will be following the old well-water adage:  "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

Even the Aussies have kicked that ball around. Here's a clip from last summer's drought down under. Anybody out there in the Maryland countryside worried about their well water? Do you eschew the casual flush?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 4:52 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

Annapolis wins rain lottery

Yesterday's rain was a spotty and not-very-satisfying affair. Annapolitans got the best of it by far. The weather instruments at the Naval Academy registered an inch of rain, nearly all of it in a heavy rain early in the evening. But most of the rest of us got only enough to wet the topsoil and puddle the streets. Here's a sampling:

Annapolis:  1.00 inch

BWI: 0.13 inch

The Sun: 0.13 inch

Reagan National: 0.31 inch

Ocean City:  0.17 inch

WeatherDeck (Cockeysville): 0.21 inch

In any case the drought continues. Even at BWI, where a heavy and very localized rain on July 10 skewed the numbers, the record books show a rainfall deficit of 5.22 inches since May 1. Yesterday's showers may mean some minor improvement on this week's Drought Monitor map. It will incorporate data through Tuesday. It's due for release Thursday morning. Here's last week's map.

It looks like today will be yet another 90-plus day at BWI. So far (through Sunday) we have had 25 days in the 90s this season. That compares with 31 days by this time last year. That summer ended with 39 days of 90-plus weather. The difference so far lies in July. We had just 10 July days in the 90s at BWI, compared with 18 days in July 2006. 

The first week of August last year was the hottest of the summer, with several days in a row of 100 degrees or more, both downtown and at BWI. Our forecast for the week looks pretty dang hot, but not quite as bad as last year.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:41 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 2, 2007

Half state now in "severe" drought

The new USDA Drought Monitor map is out today, and it shows that Maryland's drought continues to worsen. Half the state - 50.5 percent - is now considered to be in "severe" drought, as measured by rainfall, streamflow and damage to vegetation. That's up from just 17 percent last week, and zero percent on the July 10 map.

Here's the new map, which reflects data as of July 31.  It shows that the worst-hit parts of the state - once confined to Southern Maryland and portions of Washington, Allegany and Montgomery counties - now also include much of the Eastern Shore, from the Bay Bridge south, almost to the ocean and the Virginia line.

Over all, about 75 percent of Maryland is in either moderate or severe drought. That's unchanged from last week, but more of what had been just "moderate" drought has slipped into the "severe" category.

Those portions of the state have had little or no significant rainfall since mid-April.

The remaining 25 percent of the state, including far Western Maryland and the northeastern corner of the state, remains only "abnormally dry."         

Here's how our state fits in with the deepening drought across much of the rest of the Eastern United States, with the partial exception of New England.

The prospects for relief, meanwhile, appear dim. There's only a "slight" chance for thundershowers in the next few days, then more heat and blue skies. These summer droughts are often broken by the passage of tropical storms or their remnants. The only hope glimmering on that front is now in the eastern Caribbean, where hurricane forecasters have begun watching a new storm system. Here's the satellite view.  And here's a portion of the forecasters' discussion:


If it becomes the season's fourth tropical storm, it will be named Dean.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

July 26, 2007

New data show Md. drought deepening

Maryland's drought is deepening as more territory is added the region experiencing "severe" drought conditions, according to new data released this morning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA's latest Drought Monitor map shows more than 75 percent of the state is officially in drought. That's unchanged from last week. The ratings are based on measurements of rainfall, soil moisture, streamflow and the health of vegetation as measured by satellites.

But the new drought map has expanded that portion of the drought-affected area now under "severe" drought. It now includes parts of southern Washington County, southwestern Frederick County and western Montgomery County. Southern Maryland, too, including Charles, St. Mary's and southern Calvert counties, remain under severe drought conditions. In all, 17 percent of the state is experiencing severe drought conditions, up from 9 percent last week.

"Moderate" drought continues in a swath from eastern Allegany County to the lower Eastern Shore, including Baltimore City and southern Baltimore County.

The remaining 25 percent of the state, including far western Maryland and the northeast corner (including northern Carroll, Baltimore and Kent countiues, and all of Harford and Cecil), remains "abnormally dry" on the USDA map.

Several Maryland communities, including Frederick, Mt. Airy and Westminster, have already announced voluntary or mandatory watering restrictions. State agriculture officials have submitted data on crop losses to Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was expected to announce today that he will seek a federal drought disaster declaration for portions of the state worst-hit by the dry weather.

Rainfall at Baltimore-Washington International Airport has been unusually scant since mid-April. Since May 1, the airport has recorded a precipitaion shortfall of about 6 inches. The actual deficit in many locations may be far worse, since the airport experienced a very localized 1.8-inch thunderstorm July 10. Spotty showers across the region this week have done little to ease the dry conditions.

Although there are chances for showers and thunderstorms each day for the next week, the National Weather Service forecast shows no prospects for sustained and restorative rains. The tropics, which have frequently provided drought relief for Maryland in the form of remnant tropical storms, remain quiet. 

Some farmers on the lower Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland say they have had no significant rain in several months. Corn, soybean and hay losses are said to be as high as 50 to 60 percent in some regions.

So far, groundwater resources and the urban reservoir system in Central Maryland are said to be holding up well. But public works officials say supplies could become stretched if the dry weather continues well into August.

Here's the national Drought Monitor map, showing how our conditions fit in with those across the lower 48 states.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:41 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

July 20, 2007

Maryland drought deepens

The drought that has plagued the southeastern United States this spring and summer has been spreading northward gradually into Maryland. Last week, 37 percent of the state was in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers "moderate" drought. With the issue of the new Drought Monitor map yesterday, the percentage of the state in moderate to "severe" drought has expanded to almost 85 percent.

(7/26 NOTE: That 85 percent figure is incorrect. The actual number is 75 percent. We misinterpreted a data table from the USDA and, somehow, nobody called us on it. The error was discovered this morning. We're fixing it now in Thursday's Web story.  Your WeatherBlogger regrets the error.)

(Drought conditions are determined by a complex formula that takes into account measurements of soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation and the health of vegetation as measured by satellite imagery.)

 Here's the national map. It shows almost the entire nation east of the Mississippi enduring  unusually dry weather, as are the far Western states. Only the nation's midsection is enjoying more or less normal rainfall and soil conditions. 

The state's worst conditions have settled over Southern Maryland, including Charles, St. Mary's and southern Calvert counties, all now in a severe drought. Here's the state map.

Moderate drought conditions prevail from eastern Allegany County, across much of central Maryland, including Baltimore and southern Baltimore County, to the lower Eastern Shore. The rest of the state - including far western Maryland and the northeast corner (from northern Carrol, across northern Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties) - is rated "abnormally dry."

It is the most widespread drought in Maryland since October 2005, when the entire state was in moderate drought.


Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:44 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

July 18, 2007

Southern Maryland, Lower Shore now in drought

Must have been busy last week, because the new Drought Monitor map slipped by me. Just noticed that it placed all of Southern Maryland and the Lower Eastern Shore under "moderate drought" conditions for the first time this summer.

The rest of the state, except for a slice of Cecil County, remains "abnormally dry."

Here's the Maryland map. Here's a broader view. showing most of the nation east of the Mississippi to be dry to exceptionally dry. The western states are also very dry, of course, leaving only the Plains, or most of that region, enjoying normal rainfall and soil moisture conditions.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 8:44 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

May 30, 2007

Fourth-driest May?

There's a chance we could see a pop-up thunderstorm today or tomorrow. But it's not very likely. If there's nothing before May runs out at midnight tomorrow, this month will rank as the 4th driest May on record for Baltimore.

You can sure see it in our suburban lawns. They're as brown as August. And stream flows, especially in the western half of the state, are running well below normal for this time of year.

Normal May rainfall at BWI is 3.89 inches. Here are the driest four Mays for Baltimore:

1986:  0.37 inch

1964:  0.43 inch

1957:  0.55 inch

2007:  0.94 inch

The forecast shows a rising likelihood for thunderstorms from Friday through the weekend. But that will come too late to bail out this very dry month of May. 

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:25 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 27, 2006

Zowie! Rain!

Woke up at 4-something. Thought I heard rain on the roof. But I dismissed it as fan noise. But this morning the instruments on the WeatherDeck here in Cockeysville show 0.21 inch of rain fell between 4 and 4:30 a.m.  It came down as hard as 1.66-inch an hour at one point. It's only the second measurable rainfall here since Aug. 10.

Alas, the station at BWI-Marshall saw nothing. Ditto for Reagan National in Washington, Martin Airport in Essex and the Inner Harbor. Dulles, out at Sterling, Va., got a mere 0.01 inch. Frederick saw 0.11.  Hardly enough to wet your whistle. Wilmington, Del., seems to be the winner this morning, with just over half an inch by 6 a.m.

It's hardly the end of the drought up here. That may take a swipe by whatever is left of TS Ernesto. But at least it's water on the garden that didn't come from a hose. Anybody else out there get some rain this morning?

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

July 21, 2006

When the rains quit in Nebraska

Several years ago I talked The Sun into sending me out to Nebraska to do a story on people who travel far to see the stars. I flew out to Omaha and drove to Valentine, in the Sand Hills region of north-central Nebraska, to attend the Nebraska Star Party - a gathering of amateur astronomers under one of the darkest skies on the continent.

While there, I fell in love with the Sand Hills. It's place of rolling grasslands and vast cattle ranches, watered by springs and lakes that bubble up from the underlying sands and the Ogallala Aquifer beneath. The hills, it turns out, are actually sand dunes. Until about a thousand years ago the place was a Sahara-like desert, and the dunes were on the move. It was a barren wasteland, and could become one again if the rains quit.

The Sand Hills depend on spring and summer rainfall that pushes north and west from the Gulf of Mexico. It's not abundant rain, but it's enough to keep the grass growing and the cattle (and before them the buffalo) fed. Not surprisingly, scientists at the University of Nebraska have been studying the state's climate for many years, trying to understand why the rains stopped and turned their land into shifting sand, and whether it might happen again.

Here's a release from the university describing the latest findings by their researchers, who say it was a shift in the prevailing winds a thousand years ago - perhaps linked to climate change in Medieval Europe - that turned on the rains from the Gulf and began watering - and stabilizing - the Sand Hills. What they don't know yet is what it would take to turn the rains off again, an event that would choke the economic life from the region.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 5:53 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

June 29, 2006

Flash! Drought over!

Here's a news flash that's sure to come as absolutely no surprise whatsoever. The recent rains have erased what had been "moderate" drought and "abnormally dry" conditions in much of Maryland, especially counties west of the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Here's the new Drought Monitor map, out just this morning. You can click on the end of the blue line of type ("To compare current drought conditions with last week's map") beneath the map to see where we were on last week's map, before the heavens opened up. The dry zones have retreated entirely from the region.

The bad news is that many of Maryland's farms have gone from too little water to too much. The heavy rain has caused considerable crop damage.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

June 15, 2006

New problem for La.: drought

Less than a year after torrential rain and storm surge inundated much of southern Louisiana and coastal Mississippi, the region is struggling with an ironic new plague: drought, or more precisely, extreme drought. The months since Katrina have been among the driest stretches the area has ever recorded. Read more here.  Here's the drought map.  It's so bad some people have begun wishing for a nice, small tropical storm.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:13 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Drought

May 5, 2006

Still dry; a little relief

The moderate drought conditions that settled in during March eased with the two significant rains we enjoyed in April. But those events failed to erase the precipitation deficit we accumulated during the late winter and early spring. The U.S. Drought Monitor maps still show abnormally dry conditions in Maryland.

We are in line for a little rain later today, and perhaps some thunderstorms and small hail. There could be more precip. again late Sunday and Monday. But forecasters aren't anticipating much moisture from these showers. The weekend, at least, looks pretty good.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:37 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)
Categories: Drought

March 30, 2006

Drought spreads to Maryland

Moderate drought conditions have been declared across Southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore, including the southern portion of Delaware. That's the message from the latest weekly Drought Monitor map just released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The rest of Maryland remains officially "abnormally dry."

It's no surprise. The instruments at BWI-Marshall Airport have recorded barely a quarter-inch of precipitation since the big snowstorm on Feb. 11-12. We've had just 0.18 inch all month, and nothing significant since Mar. 2.

That's pushing BWI toward a new record for the driest March since record-keeping began in 1871. The current mark is 0.46 inch, set in March 1910. We could get some rain late Friday as a cold front passes through the region. But it doesn't appear likely to be enough to avert a new record. They're predicting less than a tenth of an inch. We'd need nearly three tenths to tie the old record.

The drought conditions that prevailed in last week's drought map in south-central Virginia and north-central North Carolina (and eastern Kentucky), have spread north and east. As soil moisture has dropped and stream flow has declined, the drought has moved into most of Virginia, across Southern Maryland and the Shore. "Abnormally dry" conditions extend all the way up the East Coast to coastal Maine.

With spring planting approaching, agricultural interests will become concerned about low soil moisture. Crops won't germinate without some watering. Pastures and lawns also need some rain for a good green-up.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

October 5, 2005

Reporter ends drought

Now that we have finally written, in The Sun, about the 5-week-old drought in Maryland, it appears that it is about to end. The forecast calls for as much as four inches of rain in Baltimore between Thursday and Saturday. The apparent source of the relief is Tropical Storm Tammy, now working its way up the East Coast, and an approaching cold front from the west.

But the actual cause, as anyone who has ever attempted to write weather stories for a daily newspaper soon learns, is the drought story in today's newspaper. You see, we write about a weather trend, and it inevitably ends. And this phenomenon appears ready to repeat itself.

So if this winter starts out snowless, and you see a story about it in the paper, that will be your signal to rush out and buy bread and toilet paper. There is no extra charge to subscribers for this service.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:02 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drought

September 20, 2005

Please, a drop of water?

Today may be our only chance for the rest of the week for some badly needed precipitation. The forecast offers only a 30 percent chance of rain today and tonight if a thunderstorm happens to develop, and happens to pass nearby. And even at that forecasters can see no more than a few tenths of an inch of rain in the offing.

So far this month the airport has clocked barely a half-inch of precipitation. Many locations across Maryland have seen even less. I've recorded just 0.02 inch on my backyard weather station since Aug. 27.  The USGS streamflow maps are showing more and more oranges and red as creeks dry up. The latest Palmer Drought Index maps show parts of Maryland - though not yet Central Maryland - are already experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.

With no more rain in sight, September is beginning to look like a very dry month. The last time a September has looked this bad was in 1986, when the airport recorded just 0.58 inch. On the other hand, perhaps Rita will come ashore (with minimal effect, we hope), swing around and sweep across the U.S. with some serious rain. That's usually how these autumn dry spells end - with a tropical storm or its remnants. We can hope.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:38 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

September 15, 2005

Into some lives, a little rain

It still hasn't rained on my gauge in Cockeysville. But BWI did pick up another .27 inch around breakfast time today. That makes a half-inch on the nose for the month - all in the last two days, and courtesy, it appears, of Hurricane Ophelia. It's the first rain we've at the airport seen since Aug. 28.

The forecast holds out hope for a bit more over the next few days, as Ophelia makes her way up the coast, and a cool front approaches from the west.

In the meantime, the scarcity of rain seems to have had some beneficial effects on bay grasses and the aquatic life they sustain in the Chesapeake Bay - at least in the Susquehanna Flats near Havre de Grace. See Candy Thomson's report in today's Sun.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:47 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

August 3, 2005

Friends in Illinois? Send water

Much of Illinois, especially in northern and western counties, is suffering through the sixth-worst drought since record-keeping out there began in 1895. The corn is shriveling, streams are drying up and groundwater levels are falling. Illinois is one of the nation's biggest corn-producers, but the drought is fairly limited in its geography, so only minimal effects are expected on corn prices nationally.

Here's the state's report on the crisis. And here's a USA Today story.

Posted by Admin at 1:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

July 22, 2005

Huge fire in drought-wracked Spain

Much of Europe is suffering through record heat and drought, the worst since World War II. Now wildfires in Spain have merged into a huge blaze near the Portuguese border, forcing evacuations. For more, click here.

Posted by Admin at 3:28 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

July 18, 2005

Deadly drought stalks France, Spain

Record heat and drought are ravaging crops, threatening the elderly and sparking deadly brush fires in France, across the Iberian peninsula and in North Africa. Now there's a plague of locusts, too. For more, click here.

Posted by Admin at 5:34 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

May 25, 2005

Drought threatens millions in Southern Africa

With little rain since January, and public health already threatened by HIV/AIDS, people in southern Africa face a harrowing future. Read more here.

Posted by Admin at 1:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

May 17, 2005

Reservoir shrivels in Dakota drought

The multi-year failure of snowfall in the northern Rockies is having a profound effect on Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam in the Missouri River. Water levels in the reservoir have fallen so far that the segment of the lake north of the North Dakota-South Dakota line has shrunk back into the old, braided Missouri river bed.

The drought is having a serious impact on agriculture, drinking water supplies and tourism in the region. Here is a pair of satellite images that show how much the lake has diminished in the past five years. Enlarge the images and you can see in detail how the lake has been transformed.

Posted by Admin at 1:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

May 16, 2005

Rain ... please?

There were a few drops on the deck this morning, but hardly enough to wet the geraniums' whistle. So far this month, BWI has recorded barely 15 hundreths of an inch of precipitation. If the month ended here, it would be the driest May on record. Only three Mays (1957, 1964 and 1986) have ended with less than an inch of rain in the gauges.

Of course, some spots have seen more. One St. Paul Street resident tells me his garden got a pretty good soaking last night. Happily, we still have better than two weeks to go in May, and the forecast is calling for a chance of showers and thunderstorms starting Wednesday night. But it's sure been a dry start.

Posted by Admin at 11:17 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought

May 12, 2005

We could use some rain

It might put a damper on your outdoor plans, but the rain tentatively predicted for this weekend would be welcomed by many. The forecast calls for at least a chance of showers or thunderstorms on Friday and through the weekend. Area lawns and gardens could use a good soaking, but will likely get much less. Less than 2 inches has fallen at BWI since April 3, and less than a tenth of an inch has been recorded at the airport since May 1.

The weather service has issued a "red flag" warning for parts of eastern Pennsylvania, meaning that dry conditions, low humidity and brisk winds are all ripe for brush fires to develop. The fire risk is also climbing in Maryland, along the Pennsylvania border.

Posted by Admin at 1:57 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

March 4, 2005

Dry February cuts water flow to Chesapeake

The U.S. Geological Survey reports this afternoon that the scant precipitation during February - 1.36 inches below normal at BWI - cut monthly stream flow from the Potomac Basin into the Chesapeake Bay to below normal for the first time since the summer of 2002, during the historic drought. Total flow to the bay was below normal for the first time since last summer.

Here's their monthly report.

Posted by Admin at 4:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drought

March 1, 2005

Our reservoirs: Still full after all these years

The drought of 2002-2003 drained area reservoirs to historic lows, and they did not begin to recover until the fall of 2002. By late spring in 2003, thanks to persistent rain and snow, they were full again. And they have remained so ever since, even during the summer and fall of 2003 and 2004, when they would normally have been expected to make seasonal declines.

The Baltimore Department of Public Works has produced some interesting charts and graphs on the state of the reservoirs. It's a pretty hefty file, but here it is: Download file

Posted by Admin at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Drought
Keep reading
Recent entries
About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center

Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers


• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected