Thursday, July 8, 2010

Drought Conditions in Virginia

The latest Drought Monitor, just released this morning, confirms what most of us in Virginia already know. We are in the beginnings of a drought. The first level of drought (Moderate) is now affecting about 35% of the state, with nearly everyone else at least abnormally dry. Here is the departure from normal soil moisture for the country, and you can see that we are not the only ones running below average for our precipitation. From the Mid-Atlantic through New England, the same region impacted by the triple-digit heat wave this week, are all badly in need of significant rainfall.
At Richmond International Airport, we are 4.66" below average for our year-to-date precipitation. In the last 40 days, we have received less than an inch of rainfall, none so far in July. March was the last month we were on track for rainfall. We've been below-average for precipitation since April. You can see how our gap has been growing since mid-April:

But we do have a couple things going for us the rest of this Summer in the Mid-Atlantic. For one, we tend to get air-mass thunderstorms often in the summertime. As long as we can stay humid enough, we should get these pop-up showers and storms regularly. Also, we are only in the beginning of our Atlantic tropical season, which will peak September 10 and carry us all the way through November. In Virginia, about 10%-40% of our rainfall in September alone is a result of tropical systems or their remnants. So between summertime storms and an above-average tropical season still expected, we should be able to prevent the drought from becoming a long-term event. In the short-term, though, expect conditions to get worse before they get better.

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