Current Northeast Drought Conditions

Exceptional Drought (D3) in New England triggers more USDA Assistance | September 17, 2020

Parts of the Northeast are now experiencing “Extreme Drought” (D3) conditions according to the Drought Monitor published September 17th. This is a first for the region this year and triggers additional financial support for producers in affected counties. D3 is present in parts or all of Aroostook and Penobscot counties in Maine, Bristol and Plymouth counties in Massachusetts, New London and Windham counties in Connecticut, and all of Rhode Island. Meanwhile the area under “Severe Drought” (D2) expanded in eastern New Hampshire and southern Maine while new parts of central Pennsylvania and New York entered “Moderate Drought” D1 conditions. As of this week, USDA Secretary Purdue has issued a drought declaration for Aroostook and contiguous counties in Maine.

D3 and D2 conditions trigger several USDA drought-assistance programs:

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) provides payments to eligible livestock owners and contract growers who have covered livestock and who are also producers of grazed forage crop acreage that have suffered a loss of grazed forage. D3 (extreme drought) intensity in any area of the county at any time during the normal grazing period means an eligible owner may receive assistance in an amount equal to three monthly payments where a monthly payment is based on 60 percent of the monthly feed cost. Please see the link above or contact your local FSA office.

A related FSA program Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP) is similarly triggered by D3 but does not pay for livestock feed. ELAP pays for the additional cost of transporting water to livestock in any area of the county that has been rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as having a D3 (extreme drought) intensity that directly impacts water availability at any time during the normal grazing period. Assistance is also available to honeybee producers for additional feed loss in counties rated as D3 on the drought monitor.

The D2 designations across the region also allow the haying or grazing of land in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts. Contact the FSA for more details.

Other losses associated with drought in the region may be eligible through additional FSA programs such as the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), or Emergency Farm Loans. These programs are triggered by percentage losses and/or Secretarial Disaster Declaration.

Little or no rain fell across much of the Northeast over the last week, intensifying drought conditions. However, parts of New Jersey, Delaware, and other localized area received over 2”, several times average weekly rainfall for this time of year. The image below from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service shows rainfall as a percent of normal for the last week.

rainfall map

Soils, Crops, and Pastures

Soil moisture levels in the far north and coastal areas remain drier than normal with mostly adequate levels further south. As of September 15th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across more than 90% of Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In New York, moisture is short or very short in 37% of soils (down from 45%) and in Pennsylvania in 50% of soils (up from 38%). In New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and West Virginia, soils are wetter than average for this time of year. Pasture conditions are poor-very poor across much of New England. This includes about 75% of pastures in New Hampshire and 90% or more of pastures in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

Outlook

The long-range outlooks do not show much relief ahead. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on September 17th and valid from September 23-27) suggests below-normal rainfall across the region while the longer range 8-14 day outlook suggests normal rainfall. The 6-10 day outlook favors normal temperatures across the region, with temperatures projected to be slightly above normal in the 8-14 day outlook. The tropics remain active this year, and NOAA forecasts issued in early August still anticipate an “extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic basin. In past years, remnant tropical systems have played the role of drought buster in the Northeast, and an active hurricane season coupled with abnormally warm waters off the eastern seaboard could support such a scenario once again this fall. Time will tell.

Drought Resistant Practices

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

View Practices

The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

Additional regional outlooks

  • The Northeast Regional Climate Center offers a three month precipitation departure map. This map represents ACIS climate data interpolated to a 5km by 5km grid. These maps are created at 7:00 am on the 3rd day after the end of each month and updated several times during the course of the month as additional data become available.

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  • The NOAA CPC offers maps on soil moisture anomaly changes nationally for daily, monthly and seasonal ranges.

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Northeast drought conditions archive

  • The summer of 2020 (June – August) has gone into the books as the hottest in 126 years of record keeping across the northeastern coastal states of Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and the second hottest (after 2010) in New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. The record temperatures (especially unusually high minimum night temperatures) led many parts of the Northeast to experience record growing degree days this summer as well.

    The continuing heat and lack of rainfall moved more of New England into “moderate drought” (D1) and “severe drought” (D2) designations in the latest Drought Monitor published September 10th. In many places in the Northeast D2 conditions activate water use restrictions. For instance, Aroostook County in Maine has now seen D2 conditions for 10 weeks, triggering USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program. For more on USDA drought assistance (including how to apply), see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    Over the last several weeks the far north and coastal New England has received below-normal rain while rainfall has been normal or above-normal elsewhere in the Northeast. Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland have all received well above-normal rains as seen in the image below from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

    rainfall map

    Soils, Crops, and Pastures

    Soil moisture levels in the far north and coastal areas remain drier than normal with mostly adequate levels further south. As of September 8th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across more than 90% of Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. In New York, moisture is short or very short in 45% of soils (up from 32%) and in Pennsylvania in 38% of soils (down from 44%). Pasture conditions have declined in southern New England. About 90% of pastures in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are now classified poor-very poor.

    Outlook

    The long-range outlooks are signaling mostly normal conditions ahead. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on September 9th and valid from September 15-19) suggests normal rainfall across the region while the longer range 8-14 day outlook suggests a slight chance of above normal rainfall. The 6-10 day outlook favors normal temperatures across the region, with temperatures projected to be slightly above normal in the 8-14 day outlook. The tropics remain active this year, and NOAA forecasts issued in early August still anticipate an “extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic basin. In past years, remnant tropical systems have played the role of drought buster in the Northeast, and an active hurricane season coupled with abnormally warm waters off the eastern seaboard could support such a scenario once again this fall. As of this writing, there are seven storms that bear watching in the Atlantic basin, with several that pose potential threats to the US mainland towards the end of September. Time will tell.

    Drought Resistant Practices

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

    View Practices

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

  • Drought conditions in the Northeast extend throughout New England, across northern and central New York, and into western Pennsylvania. Conditions are mostly unchanged since last week. The latest Drought Monitor published August 27th shows “severe drought” (D2) conditions in much of Maine as well as parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, with most of the rest of New England experiencing “moderate drought” (D1) conditions. In many places in the Northeast D2 designations activate water use restrictions. Aroostook County in Maine has now seen D2 conditions for 8 weeks, triggering USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program. For more on USDA drought assistance (including how to apply), see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    Most of the region received some rain (including locally heavy amounts) over the last week. Except in West Virginia, rainfall was generally well below normal for this time of year. Coastal areas from Rhode Island south to Delaware were particularly dry as seen in the image below from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. The Midwest received almost no rain last week and drought conditions expanded compared to the previous week.

    rainfall map

    Soils, Crops, and Pastures

    Soil moisture levels in the far north and coastal areas remain drier than normal with mostly adequate levels further south. As of August 24th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across three quarters or more of Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In New York, moisture is short or very short in 47% of soils (up from 36%) and in Pennsylvania in 63% of soils (up from 57%). Pasture conditions have slowly deteriorated. About 60% of pastures in Connecticut and Rhode Island are now classified poor-very poor, as are almost half the pastures in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

    Outlook

    The long-range outlooks signal a weak trend towards wetter conditions. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on August 28th and valid from September 3-7) suggests a higher chance of above-normal rainfall across the region as does the longer range 8-14 day outlook. Both outlooks favor above-normal temperatures across the region except for Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and western New York where temperatures are more likely to be below normal in the 8-14 day outlook. The tropics remain active this year, and NOAA forecasts issued in early August anticipate an “extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic basin. In past years, remnant tropical systems have played the role of drought buster in the Northeast, and an active hurricane season coupled with abnormally warm waters off the eastern seaboard could support such a scenario once again this fall. Time will tell.

    Drought Resistant Practices

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

    View Practices

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

  • The latest Drought Monitor published August 20th shows “severe drought” (D2) conditions in five Northeast states. Over 42% of Maine as well as parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are in D2 with most of the rest of New England experiencing “moderate drought” (D1) conditions. In many places in the Northeast D2 designations trigger water use restrictions. Areas in moderate drought expanded in western Pennsylvania and were introduced into the southern Finger Lakes region of New York. Aroostook County in Maine has now seen D2 conditions for 7 weeks. If severe drought (D2) conditions remain for 8 consecutive weeks in a county or increase to “extreme drought” (D3), USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program, automatically become available. Official disaster declarations can also make program assistance available.

    Although drought has expanded in New England, many parts of West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey have received above-normal rainfall over the last week. The mid-Atlantic rain was on top of excess rainfall from tropical storm Isaias earlier in August. The location of the persistent storminess as well as continued shortages to the north is easily visible in the 1-week rainfall image below from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

    rainfall map

    Soils, Crops, and Pastures

    Soil moisture levels in the far north and coastal areas remain drier than normal with mostly adequate levels further south. However, 47% of the top soils in Maryland are experiencing surplus moisture from the persistent wet conditions. As of August 17th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across all of Rhode Island, more than three quarters of Maine and New Hampshire and 57% of Pennsylvania. Pasture conditions have improved since earlier in the season and are fair to good across most of the region. However, pastures have worsened again in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire where 48% and 40% are now classified poor-very poor. In Rhode Island, 100% are rated poor or very poor.

    Outlook

    The long-range outlooks signal a weak trend towards wetter conditions. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on August 20th and valid from August 26 through August 30) suggests a higher chance of above-normal rainfall across the region as does the longer range 8-14 day outlook. Both outlooks favor above-normal temperatures across the region except for northern New York, Vermont, and Maine where temperatures are more likely to be below normal. The tropics remain active this year, and NOAA forecasts issued in early August anticipate an “extremely active” hurricane season in the Atlantic basin. In past years, remnant tropical systems have played the role of drought buster in the Northeast, and an active hurricane season coupled with abnormally warm waters off the eastern seaboard could support such a scenario once again this fall. Time will tell.

    Drought Resistant Practices

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

    View Practices

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

  • Rains from tropical storm Isaias on August 4-5 eased drought conditions in the eastern half of New York but conditions worsened in northern Maine and along parts of the New England coast. The latest Drought Monitor published August 13th shows dry conditions across the Northeast otherwise little changed from the previous week. “Severe drought” (D2) expanded in Aroostook County in northern Maine and appeared in parts of Somerset and Piscataquis counties. Parts of Aroostook have now seen D2 conditions for 6 weeks. If severe drought (D2) conditions remain for 8 consecutive weeks in a county or increase to “extreme drought” (D3), USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program, automatically become available. Official disaster declarations can also make program assistance available.

    The big story in the Northeast was rainfall from tropical storm Isaias, as well recurrent flooding rains from a stalled frontal boundary along the eastern seaboard. Combined, these weather features soaked parts of Delaware, Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey with more than 10 inches of rain. The location of the persistent storminess is easily visible in the 2-week rainfall image below from the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. However, rainfall remained very short (less than one-half an inch over the last 2 weeks) across parts of western New York and Pennsylvania, in northern Maine, and along the coast from Maine down to Rhode Island.

    August 13 2020 Rainfall Map

    Drought Resistant Practices

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

    View Practices

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Soils, Crops, and Pastures

    The heavy rains from Isaias dramatically improved soil moisture across the Mid-Atlantic States. Soil moisture levels in this region are now generally adequate. However, 53% of the top soils in Maryland and 44% in New Jersey are experiencing surplus moisture, a big change from recent dry conditions. In the New England States soils continued to dry. As of August 10th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across all of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and almost three quarters of Maine and New Hampshire. Pasture conditions have improved since earlier in the season and are fair to good across most of the region. However, in Connecticut and Rhode Island, pasture conditions have worsened considerably. In Connecticut and Rhode Island 100% are rated poor or very poor.

    Outlook

    The long-range outlooks signal a weak trend towards continued drier conditions. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on August 12th and valid from August 18 through August 22) suggests a higher chance of below-normal rainfall for regions north of Pennsylvania and about normal for the Mid-Atlantic States. However, the longer range 8-14 day outlook favors normal rainfall but above-normal temperatures in the region except for West Virginia where temperatures are more likely to be below normal.

    Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

  • The latest Drought Monitor published July 30th shows dry conditions across the Northeast mostly unchanged from the previous week. Parts of southwest Pennsylvania, coastal Massachusetts, and Long Island are newly classified as in “moderate drought” (D1). Only parts of Aroostook County in northern Maine and St. Lawrence County in northwest New York remain in “severe drought” (D2), now for the fourth week in a row. If severe drought (D2) conditions remain for 8 consecutive weeks in a county or increase to “extreme drought” (D3), USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program, automatically become available. Official disaster declarations can also make program assistance available.

    Over the last week, thunderstorms brought above-normal rain to central Maine, West Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey and across a strip from central New York through Massachusetts. However, rainfall for the last week was less than a quarter of normal in the hard hit areas in northwest New York and northern Maine. Rainfall was also short across a large area of southeast New York and northeast Pennsylvania and east through Connecticut and Rhode Island.

    Rainfall map

    Drought Resistant Practices

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

    View Practices

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Tools/Resources for agricultural drought

    The National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides maps of rainfall or rainfall departure across the U.S. for daily or longer time periods. These maps can be zoomed down to below the county level. Rainfall across most of the region was below normal for the week ending 7/30/2020 except for central New York and most of Massachusetts and West Virginia.

    Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

    Soils, Crops, and Pastures

    Across the region, top soil moisture has generally shown improvement since last week. A notable exception is in Connecticut and Rhode Island where moisture is short over most or all of each state. As of July 26th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across about half of Delaware, New York, and Maine, and about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Pasture conditions have improved since earlier in the season and are fair-good across most of the region. However, in Connecticut and Rhode Island, pasture conditions have worsened considerably. In Connecticut 86% of pasture is rated poor (down from 15% last week) and 100% are rated poor in Rhode Island.

    Outlook

    There is a good chance that tropical moisture from Isaias will reach parts of the region by early next week. In fact, quantitative precipitation forecasts issued by NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center suggest that the Delmarva Peninsula, along with portions of eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, extreme southeastern New York, and southern Connecticut could see upwards of five inches of rain over the next seven days. Long-range outlooks also support a trend towards wetter conditions, as the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on July 29th and valid from August 4 through August 8) suggests a higher chance of above-normal rainfall across the Northeast. However, the longer range 8-14 day outlook favors a return to below-normal rainfall and above-normal temperatures in the region.

  • The latest Drought Monitor published July 23rd shows dry conditions unchanged from the previous week in New York and New England, but worsening conditions in central-southwestern Pennsylvania, and western parts of Maryland and West Virginia. Some rainfall and cooler conditions have allowed crops and pasture in many places to recover. About 24% of the region (up slightly from last week) remains classified as in “moderate drought” (D1) and another 44% as “abnormally dry” (D0). Far northern Maine and a section of Northern New York remain for the third week in “severe drought” (D2). If severe drought (D2) conditions remain for 8 consecutive weeks in a county or increase to “extreme drought” (D3), USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program, automatically become available. Official disaster declarations can also make program assistance available.

    Drought Resistant Practices

    The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers cost sharing for practices that help farmers increase resilience to drought. These include Mulching, Residue and Tillage Management, Cover Crop, and Microirrigation.

    View Practices

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Tools/Resources for agricultural drought

    The National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides maps of rainfall or rainfall departure across the U.S. for daily or longer time periods. These maps can be zoomed down to below the county level. Rainfall across most of the region was below normal for the week ending 7/23/2020 except for central New York and most of Massachusetts and West Virginia.

    Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator provides water deficit predictions for any locality in the Northeast region. The tool enables producers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

    Soils, Crops, and Pastures

    Across the region, soils remain drier than normal for this time of year. As of July 19th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 70% of Pennsylvania (up from 54% last week), Rhode Island (up from 40%), and New Hampshire (down from 82%). Moisture levels improved in Maine and New York. The recent rains have continued to stabilize crops and pasture in northern New York and New England. However, for July 19th, pasture conditions have worsened in other parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia where around 25% were rated poor or very poor. By contrast 79% of pastures in New Jersey and Vermont are now rated good to excellent.

    Outlook

    The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on July 22nd and valid from July 28 through August 1) suggests a slightly higher chance of below-normal rainfall and above-normal temperatures across the Northeast states. The longer range 8-14 day outlook also favors below-normal rainfall and above-normal temperatures in the region.

  • Rains, especially those associated with tropical storm Fay, helped ease drought across parts of the Northeast. The latest Drought Monitor published July 16th shows improvement from the previous week, especially in Delaware, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and western New York. About 43% of the region is classified “abnormally dry” (D0), including much of New York and Pennsylvania as well as parts of West Virginia. The area in the Northeast classified as “moderate drought” (D1) has declined slightly and covers about 23% of the region. This includes Northern Maine, southern New Hampshire and Vermont, western Massachusetts and eastern New York. Far northern Maine and a section of Northern New York remain for the second week in “severe drought” (D2). If severe drought (D2) conditions remain for 8 consecutive weeks in a county or increase to “extreme drought” (D3), USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program, automatically become available. Official disaster declarations can also make program assistance available.

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Soils, Crops, and Pasture

    Across the region, soils remain drier than normal for this time of year. However, moisture levels generally improved over the previous week (especially in areas visited by Fay). As of July 12th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 81% of New Hampshire (down from 82% the previous week) and 70% of Maine (down from 76%). Soil moisture is also short or very short across 61% of New York (up from 53%) and 54% of Pennsylvania (unchanged). The recent rains have helped stabilize crops and pasture in the majority of the region. For July 12th, 44% of New Hampshire pastures and 40% of Maine pastures were rated poor or very poor but conditions were generally fair to good elsewhere.

    Outlook

    The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook (issued on July 16th and valid from July 22nd through July 26th) suggests a slightly higher chance of above-normal rainfall across the Northeast states. The longer range 8-14 day outlook is for normal rainfall in the region. There is a higher chance of above-normal temperatures across the region, especially over the next 6-10 days. These high temperatures will bring back higher evaporative demands on crops, pasture, and forests.

    Tools/Resources for agricultural drought

    The National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides maps of rainfall or rainfall departure across the U.S. for daily or longer time periods. These maps can be zoomed down to the county level. In the map below, rainfall is shown for the week ending 7/17/2020. Tropical storm Fay brought 2-4” of rain to much of Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. Meanwhile, Northern Maine received little additional moisture.

    rainfall map

    Soil moisture

    The soil water deficit is an important metric that indicates how much water should be added to soils to ameliorate plant water stresses that develop during drought conditions. In short, soil water deficit is the difference between the amount of water a soil can hold – often referred to as field capacity – and the amount of water currently stored in the soil. The impacts that soil water deficits have on plants vary as a function of soil texture (e.g., the proportion of sand, silt and clay in a given soil) and plant type. While soil moisture monitoring networks represent one way that farmers can keep tabs on soil water deficits, most farmers do not have such monitoring capabilities in place. Fortunately, there are simple water accounting models that can used to predict soil water deficits for different soil conditions and crop types. Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator is one such tool, and it provides water deficit predictions for any zip code in the Northeast region. The tool enables farmers to track changes in soil water deficits from the onset of the growing season through the present, and it also provides a three-day outlook based on current weather forecasts. Using this information, farmers can determine the amount of water that would need to be added to overcome soil water deficits according to the types of soils in their region and the types of crops that they are growing.

    Pasture Management

    With pasture conditions below normal in the region, many farmers have found rotational grazing helpful. A rotational stocking system controls the timing and intensity of grazing by rotating animals among paddocks, and gives the pastures time for rest and regrowth. Managing plant communities through rotational stocking can improve forage root structure and depth. Better root structure means healthier plants, greater water infiltration, and much less susceptibility to drought.

    Well-managed pastures that allow forage to rest and recover to a taller height are more resistant to drought. Furthermore, taller grass shades the ground, making it cooler and thereby reducing water loss from evaporation and transpiration. Taller grass also has longer roots that are able to access water deeper into the ground. Livestock managers can hold off on clipping pastures to allow vegetation to grow taller during periods of drought.

    Agroforestry at Angus Glen Clovercrest Farm Case Study Dickinson College Farm's Silvopasture

    This practice also promotes soil health, carbon sequestration, and maintains a farm’s environmental resources.

    Managing Grazing to Improve Climate Resilience
  • Rains helped ease drought across parts of New England, but abnormally dry conditions have expanded elsewhere in the Northeast. The latest Drought Monitor published July 9th shows that about half the region is classified “abnormally dry” (D0), now including most of New York and Pennsylvania as well as much of the Delmarva peninsula. The area in the Northeast classified as “moderate drought” (D1) covers about 25% of the region and has expanded across Maine and remains in southern New Hampshire and Vermont, western Massachusetts and eastern New York. Substantial rain failed to reach northern Maine, and this area (and a section of Northern New York) are now classified as in “severe drought” (D2). If severe drought (D2) conditions remain for 8 consecutive weeks in a county or increase to “extreme drought” (D3), USDA drought assistance programs such as the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program, automatically become available. Official disaster declarations can also make program resources available.

    For more on USDA drought assistance, see our page on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Soils, Crops, and Pasture

    In the severe drought (D2) areas, crops and pasture are stressed. For example, the 7/9/20 New York State field crops call noted, “Northern NY/St. Lawrence/Clinton Counties were very dry! All corn is rolled tight (has been for 2 weeks), patches turning bluish grey in the D2 areas, worried corn won’t survive.”

    Across the region, soils remain drier than normal for this time of year. Moisture levels improved in the New England states over the previous week (especially in Massachusetts and Rhode Island) but have continued to decline across the mid-Atlantic, especially in Maryland and Delaware. As of July 6th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 82% of New Hampshire (down from 89%) and 76% of Maine (down from 86%). Soil moisture is now short or very short across 62% of Delaware, 59% of New Jersey, 57% of Maryland, 54% of Pennsylvania and 53% of New York. Drier than normal conditions now stretch from the Northeast across the Midwest. The recent rains have helped stabilize crops and pasture in the majority of the region. For July 6th, 52% of New Hampshire pastures and 33% of Maine pastures were rated poor or very poor but conditions were generally fair to good elsewhere.

    Outlook

    The National Hurricane Center has noted that a tropical system may bring heavy rain to coastal areas in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast over the next few days but with reduced rainfall inland. Looking further ahead, both the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 7-10 day outlook and 8-14 day outlook (issued on July 8th and valid from July 14th through July 22th) suggests a slightly higher chance of continued below-normal rainfall across the Northeast states. There is a stronger possibility of above-normal temperatures across the region with highest odds of above-normal temperatures in the already driest areas of the region. These high temperatures will continue the high evaporative demands on crops, pasture, and forests. Higher than normal temperatures in the late spring and summer have intensified drought in the Northeast and brought about “flash drought” conditions.

    temperatures across the region with highest odds of above-normal temperatures in the already driest areas of the region. These high temperatures will continue the high evaporative demands on crops, pasture, and forests. Higher than normal temperatures in the late spring and summer have intensified drought in the Northeast and brought about “flash drought” conditions.

    Flash drought

    Drought develops when moisture evaporating from plants and soil exceeds rainfall for a period of time. According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, June rainfall in the Northeast was well below normal. The low June rainfall this year was coupled with well above-average temperatures and low humidity from late May through late June. High temperatures and low humidity dramatically increase soil evaporation and plant water use, causing drought conditions to quickly worsen. This is sometimes called a “flash drought” and doesn’t occur often in the Northeast but it did this year. The extremely high evaporative demand for the Northeast early in the season can be seen in the map below of the “Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)” produced by the NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Laboratory. More recently evaporation has returned to typical July levels because the humidity has gone back up.

    EDDI Northeast June 25

    Tools/Resources for agricultural drought

    The soil water deficit is an important metric that indicates how much water should be added to soils to remove plant water stresses that develop during drought conditions. In short, soil water deficit is the difference between the amount of water a soil can hold – often referred to as field capacity – and the amount of water currently stored in the soil. The impacts that soil water deficits have on plants vary as a function of soil texture (e.g., the proportion of sand, silt and clay in a given soil) and plant type. Soil moisture monitoring is one way that farmers can keep tabs on soil water deficits, but most farmers do not have such monitoring capabilities in place. Fortunately, there are simple water accounting models that can be used to predict soil water deficits for different soil conditions and crop types. Cornell’s Climate Smart Farming Water Deficit Calculator is one such tool, and it provides water deficit predictions for any zip code in the Northeast region. It is especially useful during periods of “flash droughts” as it provides farmers the ability to plan water applications, with the goal of minimizing plant stress while maximizing water conservation. This tool can be tailored to specific farm needs, including location, soil type and broad crop types. It provides a historic record of water needs and a prediction of needs for the next month.

    What are some actions farmers can take to deal with drought?

    In the short term, farmers can irrigate. If producers are irrigating but not monitoring soil moisture, they may find that using low-cost moisture sensors can improve results and lower costs. They can also retain what little moisture is in the soil by covering bare soil with mulch or other organic matter. By keeping the soil covered, soil evaporation can be controlled. Mulch also keeps soil cooler, which decreases water loss through plant transpiration. Well-managed pastures that allow forage to rest and recover to a taller height are more resistant to drought. Furthermore, taller grass shades the ground, making it cooler and thereby reducing water loss from evaporation and transpiration. Taller grass also has longer roots that are able to access water deeper into the ground. Livestock managers can hold off on clipping pastures to allow vegetation to grow taller during periods of drought.

    There are also long term changes that farmers can think about to build resiliency to drought. For instance, leaving last year’s plant residue in the field covers the soil and reduces water loss from evaporation and transpiration while building soil organic matter. This also enables the soil to retain more moisture. Cover crops keep the soil covered and therefore cooler while increasing organic matter in the soil. One percent of organic matter in soil can hold 25,000 gallons of water per acre. Maintaining higher amounts of organic matter in the soil further enhances the soil’s water holding capacity. Cover crops can be interseeded or seeded after the cash crop is harvested.

  • Moderate to heavy rains during the last few days of June eased dry conditions across much of New England, eastern New York, and southeastern parts of Canada. However, substantial rain failed to reach northern Maine, and many areas remain short on moisture. The area in the Northeast classified as “D1-moderate drought” has declined in the latest Drought Monitor published July 2nd.

    Flash drought

    The dry conditions in the Northeast developed unusually quickly this year because of a combination of low rainfall, well above-average temperatures, and low humidity from late May through most of June. High temperatures and low humidity dramatically increase soil evaporation and plant water use, causing drought conditions to worsen quickly. This is sometimes called a “flash drought” and doesn’t occur often in the Northeast. The unusually high evaporative demand for the Northeast is best seen in the June "Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI)" produced by the NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Laboratory.

    EDDI Northeast June 25

    The U.S. Drought Monitor is a map released every Thursday, showing parts of the U.S. that are in drought. The map uses five classifications: abnormally dry (D0), showing areas that may be going into or are coming out of drought, and four levels of drought: moderate (D1), severe (D2), extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4). The USDA uses the drought monitor to trigger disaster declarations and eligibility for low-interest loans and assistance programs.

    Soils and Pasture

    The latest measurements of soil moisture came before the end-of-month rain. Although recent rain has helped, soils in New England remain dryer than normal for this time of year. As of June 28th (before some of the heaviest rains), the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 89% of New Hampshire (up from 84%), 86% of Maine (down from 88%), and 52% of Vermont (up from 48%). Soils were also unusually dry across more than 40% of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. These numbers are likely much improved except in the northern half of Maine. The dry conditions in June have affected crops and pasture. For June 28th, 42% of Maine pastures were rated poor or very poor with a similar rating for 31% of New Hampshire, both up by 4%.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Outlook

    Looking ahead, both the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 6-10 day outlook and 8-14 day outlook (issued on July 1st and valid from July 9th through July 15th) suggests a slightly higher chance of continued below-normal rainfall across the Northeast states. There is a stronger possibility of above-normal temperatures across the region with highest odds of above-normal temperatures in the already driest areas of the region. These high temperatures will return the high evaporative demands on crops, pasture, and forests.

  • New England, eastern New York, and southeastern parts of Canada have continued to be short on rain. Many areas that were classified as “drier than normal” last week were upgraded to “D1-moderate drought” in the latest Drought Monitor published June 25th. This is the largest extent of moderate drought in this region since late summer 2016. The U.S. Drought Monitor is a map released every Thursday, showing parts of the U.S. that are in drought. The map uses five classifications: abnormally dry (D0), showing areas that may be going into or are coming out of drought, and four levels of drought: moderate (D1), severe (D2), extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4). The USDA uses the drought monitor to trigger disaster declarations and eligibility for low-interest loans and assistance programs.

    Soils have continued to dry with the sunshine and above-average temperatures. As of June 21st, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 100% of Connecticut (up from 71% last week), 88% of Maine (up from 32%), 84% of New Hampshire (up from 64%), and 48% of Vermont (down from 58%). Soils are also unusually dry across about a third of New York and Pennsylvania. The dry conditions are affecting crops and pasture. For June 21st, 38% of Maine pastures are rated poor or very poor with a similar rating for 27% of New Hampshire and 20% of Massachusetts pastures.

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and Northeast Regional Climate Center have set up a New England and New York Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) “Dashboard” which highlights the rainfall shortage, low stream and river flows, and other aspects of the current NE drought.

    Looking ahead, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 8-14 day outlook (issued on June 24th and valid from July 2nd through July 8th) suggests a slightly higher chance of continued below-normal rainfall across the Northeast states. There is a stronger possibility of above-normal temperatures across the region with highest odds of above-normal temperatures in the already driest areas of the region. These high temperatures will continue the high evaporative demands on crops and pasture.

  • Conditions have continued to be drier than normal in much of New England and northeastern New York. Parts of southern Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula have also been drier than normal. These areas are all classified as “D0 Abnormally Dry” in the latest Drought Monitor published June 18th. With the long days of June, evapotranspiration is at its highest so soils are continuing to dry. In southern New Hampshire and Vermont, western Massachusetts, Central Maine, and northeastern New York conditions may soon move to “D1 Moderate Drought” without more rain. Streamflow conditions show that these regions are already experiencing hydrological drought. This means unusually low stream and river flows for this time of year.

    As of June 14th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 71% of Connecticut, 64% of New Hampshire, 58% of Vermont, and 32% of Maine. Moreover, monthly and seasonal changes in soil moisture reported by NOAA still show persistent downward trends over most of the Northeast. Some of the strongest moisture declines (on the order of 40%) have occurred in New Hampshire. Precipitation from March to May over much of New England, New York, and the Delmarva Peninsula was generally one to three inches below normal. The trend of below normal precipitation has continued into the month of June.

    Looking ahead, there might be some good news. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 8-14 day outlook for June 26th through July 2nd suggests a slightly higher chance of above-normal rainfall across the Northeast states. However, there is also a greater chance of above-normal temperatures across the region (except in West Virginia). The highest odds of above-normal temperatures is in the already driest parts of the region. These high temperatures will continue the high evaporative demands on crops and pasture.

  • Conditions have been drier than normal in much of New England and northeastern New York. Parts of southern Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula have also been drier than normal. These areas are all classified as “D0 Abnormally Dry” in the latest Drought Monitor published June 11th. With the long days of June ahead, evapotranspiration is at its highest so soils are drying rapidly. In central Maine, southern New Hampshire, western Massachusetts, and northeastern New York conditions may rapidly move to “D1 Moderate Drought” without more rain. Streamflow conditions indicate that these regions are already experiencing hydrological drought (unusually low stream and river flows for this time of year).

    As of June 7th, the USDA reports dry soils (topsoil moisture short or very short) across 50% of NH, 38% of Maine, and 25% of DE and RI. Moreover, monthly and seasonal changes in soil moisture reported by NOAA show persistent downward trends over most of the Northeast, with some of the strongest moisture declines (on the order of 40-60%) occurring in northern NY. Indeed, precipitation from March to May over much of New England, New York, and the Delmarva Peninsula has generally been one to three inches below normal, and this trend of below normal precipitation has continued into the month of June. Looking ahead, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) 8-14 day outlook (issued on June 11th and valid from June 19th through June 25th) suggests near-normal precipitation for interior sections of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states, with higher odds of above-normal precipitation along a portion of the Atlantic seaboard from northern Virginia to southern Massachusetts.