After Long Island faced varying degrees of drought intensity for the past year, drought here is officially history.
On March 21, the Island was deemed drought-free but still abnormally dry. That designation was changed to simply drought-free on April 4. That continued to be reflected in this past Tuesday’s update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
It was April 19, 2016, when the Island was deemed abnormally dry, the monitor’s least intense category, and by mid-September most of the Island was in severe drought — the monitor’s third of five categories. That’s according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, based at Cornell University.
Drought severity is based on a number of factors, including precipitation, soil moisture and groundwater levels.
Conditions last year were warmer and drier than normal at Long Island MacArthur Airport. The year saw an average temperature of 54.7 degrees, 2.4 degrees above the norm, as well as precipitation that was 11.25 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service.
That was problematic, as “above-normal temperatures can increase evaporation, exacerbating the dry conditions,” with above-normal precipitation needed to make a dent in the drought, said Jessica Spaccio, climatologist with the regional climate center, for an earlier story.
But, when it comes to drought relief, “it’s easier to catch up in winter,” she said earlier this year. That’s because there is generally lower demand for water in winter, with less water use for agriculture, lawns and gardens. Also, there’s less water evaporation from plants in that season.
Some recent precipitation events have made “a big difference” in drought relief, said Melissa DiSpigna, weather service meteorologist in Upton. Since March 1, the airport has seen 7.42 inches of precipitation, which is about an inch above normal.
In 2015 the Island also was in drought, which ended as of Feb. 23, 2016, Spaccio said, meaning a short gap before the more recent drier spell began.