As moderate to severe drought conditions have overspread WNY, lawns that were once green have taken on a range of tan hues. Still there are a number of reasons to remain positive beyond the fact that we live next to one of the largest fresh water sources on the planet.
The biggest positive would be for all the heat loving locals since dry ground (and dry air) heat up more quickly. Much of what I have been seeing repeatedly in the longer range ensembles has been a trend of above average warmth, especially through the finish of this month. I am clearly not alone since NOAA’s CPC is favoring above average temperatures for the one and three month outlooks.
Prolonged drought unlikely
Since the drought monitor (released weekly and seen above) began in 2000 the 3rd worst category on a scale of 1-5 has only been assigned for areas in NY 4 times. The most recent of which was in 2012, though Buffalo only reached “moderate” drought classification that year and by the end of fall was completely out of it. Seeing that I’m focusing mainly on the positives, it is hard to ignore that since 1940 there have been very few consecutive extremely low precip years aside from a noteworthy stretch in the mid-late 1960’s. What I take from that is that we can bounce back rather quickly. http://www.weather.gov/buf/BuffaloPcpn While this is not immediate gratification for farmers trying to work toward a reasonable harvest, it may be a bit of longer range hope.
How we got here
This current drought and the subsequent “drought watch” that was issued today by NY Dept of Environmental Conservation technically began unfolding back in late 2015 as we were entering record strong El Nino territory. Our rain deficit for the year so far is -6.84″ as of this post, though when you combine that with -3.68 for just Nov and Dec 2015 it looks like the graphic below. We focus so much on the data from KBUF due to it’s reliability, but this is a good snapshot to describe the situation across the rest of our area.
While indicators like El Nino come in many differing degrees, this current one was true to form and helped to secure a warm and dry winter. February was the only winter month with above average precip and the only one so far this year.
The current forecast for ENSO (the name given to the dual phase El Nino/La Nina) has us heading into the grey area or “neutral” range between the two over the next couple weeks. Current NOAA/CPC forecasts are for a 75% chance of continuing this trend into a La Nina phase by fall/winter of this year. While the relative strength of the signal or how far we might see the needle go into La Nina territory has yet to be seen, the simple change in this pattern could be used as supporting evidence that our current drought will likely not have a good chance for long residency here in Bills Country. It also helps that while there are some months that see lower average precip totals, our wettest months are generally found during the 2nd half of the year peaking with a November average of 4″.
While I mentioned the excellent resource that is our Great Lakes, it still makes sense to use water wisely. The biggest suggestion that I can give is that if you’re going to do it, the late night and pre-dawn hours will give you more bang for the buck since evaporation rates are lower and more of that water will get to where you want it, into the plants and soil. Years like this it’s very comforting to live next to so much fresh water, but also a very big reminder of how much we depend on and need to take care of it.
Photo: Cheryl W., Hamburg Beach 7/15/16