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Regional Drought Update Date
January 25, 2024
Site Section
Drought Status Update

Drought Status Update for the Northeast


DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future Northeast Drought Status Updates as conditions evolve.

Ample Precipitation—Just Not Where We Need It.
 

Key Points:

  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, approximately 6% of the Northeast DEWS region is experiencing drought or Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions. These localized areas are currently confined to portions of western New York, the Massachusetts Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. In these areas, drought designations are mostly driven by groundwater deficits.
  • New England and New York have wetter trending climates, but there are still localities that are not seeing much needed precipitation.
  • The lake effect snow blitz in western New York state did not do much to replenish groundwater and dry wells in Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Monroe, and Livingston counties.
  • With just two weeks of data in, the Snow Survey map for the Northeast depicts low snow water equivalent (SWE), less than an inch, in the snowpack for much of New York outside of the Adirondacks and localized lake-effect zones. 
  • Groundwater levels on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard are improving. Groundwater levels on Nantucket have leveled off but are still well below normal. Significant improvements to groundwater levels on these islands is needed to eliminate Severe Drought (D2). 
Current Conditions
Northeast Precipitation: December 2023

Percent of Normal Precipitation (%)
Range Map Hex Color
- 25% #a50026
25% - 50% #c82227
50% - 75% #f57547
75% - 100% #feca79
100% - 125% #feffbe
125% - 150% #c3e67d
150% - 200% #39a758
200% - #006837

Main Stats
24,879
estimated MA residents in drought
807,539
estimated NY residents in drought
2 Counties
in NY with primary Drought Disaster Designations

Current Conditions for the Northeast

  • With a few snow and rain events, some western New York counties experiencing dry wells and Severe Drought (D2) conditions saw a one-category improvement to Moderate Drought (D1) over the last two weeks. 
  • The geographic extent of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) has not changed much since Christmas.
  • The South Fork of Long Island benefited from precipitation events since the start of the New Year. Abnormal Dryness (D0) was eliminated.
  • Severe Drought (D2) has been a fixture on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket since the first of the year.
  • The Provincetown area (the tip of Cape Cod) saw Abnormal Dryness (D0) improve over the last few weeks, but the “elbow” of the Cape did not see the same improvement.
  • Massachusetts had 6.71 inches of precipitation in December, which is 150% of normal. New York received 5.70 inches, which is 163% of normal. These summary statistics and additional data from 2023 can be found on the Northeast Regional Climate Center’s website.
  • Plowable snows came late to the region this year. Low snow water equivalent (SWE) is observable across much of the Northeast DEWS. Sites in Vermont and a few sites in New Hampshire are in better shape.

Snow Drought: Snow Water Equivalent for January 14–19, 2024 

Snow water equivalent is below normal across much of the Northeast.
The Snow Survey map represents the water equivalent of the snowpack (SWE, in inches) as measured at survey sites around New York and New England. Snow surveys are taken every two weeks from early January to as late as early May, depending on the snowpack. Source: Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Accumulated Snowfall Departure from Normal

This chart plots the snowfall departure from normal for selected sites across the region and highlights the snowfall deficits that will impact groundwater recharge.

Snowfall deficits persist across many sites in the Northeast.
Departure from normal snowfall (inches) for the following sites: Rochester Area, NY (blue), Rutland, VT (black), Concord Area, NH (green), Bangor International Airport, ME (orange), Worcester Area, MA (purple), Hartford Area, CT (red), and Providence Area, RI (yellow). Source: Applied Climate Information System (ACIS).

Drought Impacts in the Northeast

Most groundwater levels on the Cape and Islands tend to increase (showing that the aquifer is recharging) in December and January each year. Improvements usually continue through May and July. When there are extended or repeated periods of reduced precipitation, the December to January recharge can be muted, as is occurring this year.

Groundwater Levels: Edgartown, Massachusetts

This graph of the U.S. Geological Survey observation well ENW-52 at Edgartown, Massachusetts on Martha’s Vineyard is an example of a typical groundwater hydrograph on Cape Cod and the Islands showing the increases and decreases in water levels during the last 4 water years and current (2024) water year. Groundwater levels tend to reach their lows in December or January and reach their highs in May through July depending on precipitation during the year.

Groundwater levels at Edgartown, Massachusetts have been mostly declining since spring/summer 2023.
Hydrograph of USGS observation well at ENW-52 at Edgartown, Massachusetts, showing depth to water level (feet below land surface)and groundwater level above NGVD from January 2020 to January 2024. Source: USGS.

Additional Sites for Monitoring Snowfall and Snowpack

For Regional Awareness

Drought Impacts in the News

New York

Maine

Massachusetts

New Hampshire

Vermont

Consider reporting and sharing your local drought impacts to help inform the U.S. Drought Monitor authors, our neighbors, and drought mitigation response agencies. Comments on snow cover and your photos are greatly appreciated, too.

View an interactive map of CMOR reports. See what your county is reporting and add to the impact dataset.

Looking Ahead: Outlooks for the Northeast 

Visit NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center for the 8-14 day and 3–4 week temperature and precipitation outlooks. 

  • As of January 25, 2024, both of these time frames have temperature outlooks calling for above normal (warmer) conditions for the entire region. The 3–4 week temperature outlook will be updated on January 26.
    • Continued warmth would benefit groundwater recharge opportunities for both New York and Massachusetts.
  • The 8-14 day precipitation outlook calls for below-normal precipitation. The 3-4 week outlook calls for equal chances of above-normal or below-normal precipitation.The 3–4 week temperature outlook will be updated on January 26.
    • Dry areas, in both New York and Massachusetts, may miss out on significant precipitation opportunities for these time frames.
  • The Drought.gov Outlooks and Forecast page and State Drought pages also provide maps and descriptions of anticipated temperature and precipitation conditions.

Additional Resources

Prepared By

Sylvia Reeves
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), CU Boulder/Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)

Samantha Borisoff, Jessica Spaccio, Keith Eggleston, Art DeGaetano
Northeast Regional Climate Center

Ellen L. Mecray
Regional Climate Services Director, Eastern Region, NOAA

Gardner Bent
USGS New England Water Science Center

In partnership with National Weather Service Offices of the Northeast and State Climate Offices of the Northeast. 

Special Thanks

This drought status update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to communicate concern for drought expansion and intensification within the Northeast U.S. based on recent conditions and the forecasts and outlooks. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.