The Washington Post

Maryland has driest January-April on record; drought expands into Montgomery county

During the opening four months of 2012, it was as dry as it gets in Maryland according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

The state averaged just 8.74” of rain between January and April, a hair below the formerly driest such stretches in 1985 and 1946 when 8.78” fell. That’s just 64.5 percent of the normal four month rainfall (13.55”). (Neighboring Delaware had just 7.17” of rain, more than 1” below 1985’s record low of 8.19”.) Records have been maintained since 1895.

Latest Drought Monitor through May 8 shower moderate drought in central and eastern Maryland and abnormally dry conditions in most of northern Virginia. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Last week, the Maryland Department of Environment extended the drought watch already covering Maryland’s eastern region into central and western parts of the state. Groundwater levels and stream flow are, for the most part, below normal in these areas.

The areas experiencing the worst drought conditions are mainly east of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center reported agricultural communities in eastern Maryland and Delaware are already dealing with the drought’s effects.

“Some farmers have waited to plant crops due to low soil moisture while others have been irrigating a practice not typically needed during the spring,” it said.

Between last week and this week, drought coverage in Maryland increased from 51 to 69 percent. However, these drought designations were made before Wednesday evening’s rain - which might shave back the drought area very slightly.

Approximately 0.2-0.6” of rain fell Wednesday evening in the D.C. area - officially 0.26 at BWI airport, 0.58”at Reagan National (DCA), and 0.37” at Dulles (IAD). Rainfall deficits for the year presently stand at 4.90” at BWI, 4.69” at DCA, and 5.42” at IAD.

While drought has spread into large parts of Maryland, much of northern Virginia is officially classified as “abnormally dry” the category below moderate drought (in the U.S. Drought Montior). A tiny area of moderate drought has crept into extreme northern Loudoun county.

Outside some possible moderate rain showers late Monday, the weather pattern for the next week appears mostly dry. No significant drought relief is likely and it’s possible drought may expand in some areas.

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.

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