• A drought in New England has shifted into high gear this month.
  • Parts of Maine and Vermont have experienced their driest September on record so far.
  • A wetter trend is emerging this week.
  • This should deliver the first one-inch-plus rain event in New England in over a month.

A worsening drought in New England will finally experience its first torrential rain in a month or more this week.

As of September 22, the Drought Monitor analysis from the US Drought Mitigation Center showed that almost all of New England was in drought, with parts of Maine, New Hampshire, southern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut in “extreme” drought, the second category in the analysis.

It’s the first time Rhode Island is in this second highest “extreme” drought category since the launch of the Drought Monitor analysis in 2000.

Additionally, parts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island experience a rapidly evolving drought known as a flash drought.

Jason Otkin, a drought researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he uses at least a two-category worsening in the US Drought Monitor over a four-week period or a three-category intensification over a period eight weeks as criteria for a flash drought.

Parts of central and northern New York State, as well as central Pennsylvania, were also in drought.

The US Drought Monitor analysis as of September 22, 2020 shows that virtually all of New England experiences drought of varying severity. Extreme drought, the second highest drought category, was plaguing parts of Maine, southern New Hampshire, southern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Areas that are not yet in drought but rather abnormally dry are shown in yellow.


Until September 28, it was the driest September to date in a number of places, including Bangor, Maine; Burlington, Vermont; and Syracuse, New York, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center.

Most towns in New England haven’t received an inch of rain for at least a month.

Residents of Hartford, Connecticut, have not seen rain an inch or more since April 30. Manchester, New Hampshire, has a precipitation deficit since mid-May of more than 10 inches.

Flash droughts generally offer less time to prepare for impacts such as crop losses, reductions in water supply, and increased risk of forest fires.

For example, in Maine, the USDA stated Aroostook County a catastrophic drought, making low-interest federal emergency loans available to those affected.

Forty percent of the US Geological Survey’s flow meters in Maine with at least 30 years of data are at all-time highs for this time of year, Nick Stasulis of the New England Water Science Center told the Portland Press Herald.

More than a dozen small forest fires were burning in the state last week, and 1,000 forest fires had been documented so far this year.

Residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island They were asked to conserve water, especially by reducing outdoor watering, and to avoid outdoor burning.

About 100 wildfires have burned so far in Rhode Island in 2020, but have only damaged a few buildings, the Boston Globe reported.

Fortunately, some relief arrived this week.

A change of model that inaugurated colder air to much of the central and southern United States this week led a frontal system to the east coast.

Warm, humid air ahead of this front brought heavy rain to parts of New England and the rest of the Northeast.

Another rain cycle is possible at the end of the week.

This should at least help to dampen parched vegetation, reduce the threat of forest fires and replenish rivers.

The main journalistic mission of The Weather Company is to report on the latest weather news, the environment and the importance of science in our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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