Long Island, which had been in severe drought for several months, has seen enough precipitation of late to be upgraded to the moderate drought category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The monitor moved eastern Suffolk County to the less-intense category in its Jan. 12 update, and placed the rest of the Island in that category as of its Jan. 19 update.
At that time, the monitor indicated that there’s always potential for a reversal, noting “that stream flows and ground water levels there remain much lower than normal and conditions will be closely monitored for possible re-intensification.”
Still, Long Island has continued to hold on to its moderate drought designation with the drought monitor’s most recent announcement Thursday. Moderate drought is the second least intense of the monitor’s five categories.
The monitor, a weekly map featuring an intensity index and discussion of the country’s latest drought conditions, is a joint venture between three federal agencies.
Precipitation at Long Island MacArthur Airport from the beginning of this year until the end of the day Tuesday was 3.93 inches — 1.04 inches above normal.
Much of Suffolk had been deemed to be in severe drought since July 26, and most of the rest of Long Island was named to that category in mid-September, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, based at Cornell University.
Last year ranks as the second-driest year since records began to be kept at the Islip airport in 1984, with 34.99 inches of precipitation recorded, said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the regional climate center. That’s slightly above the record-low 34.41 inches, recorded in 1985.
When it comes to drought relief, “it’s easier to catch up in winter,” she said.
“In winter the demand for water is generally lower,” with less water use for agriculture, lawns and gardens, she said. Also, there’s less water evaporation from plants in that season.
The determination of drought severity can be based on a number of factors, including precipitation, soil moisture, and groundwater levels.