UPDATE as of 9 a.m. Thursday 6/13...

The latest edition of the Drought Monitor report just came out. And it shows some improvement around Camden, Gloucester, and Salem counties thanks to recent rain. Good news!

U.S. Drought Monitor report for NJ as of Thursday 6/13. (NOAA / NDMC)
U.S. Drought Monitor report for NJ as of Thursday 6/13. (NOAA / NDMC)
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That leaves about 20% of South Jersey in the "Abnormally Dry" category for now. Technically not official "drought" yet, but trending in the wrong direction.

I took some heat on social media as a result of an article I published earlier this week, cautioning of a possible drought spiral this summer. Yes, I know we've had a lot of rain lately - year-to-date rainfall is running 3 to 6 inches above normal, one year departure is closer to a foot above. But the last 30 to 60 days have really dried out, especially in southern New Jersey. And the forecast is now turning hot and dry.

My big concern... What is this map going to look like in a month or two, if we don't get a good soaking by then?

First potential impacts would be elevated wildfire danger and brown lawns. Concerns for farms and reservoirs would be way down the road.

For now, we watch and wait.


ORIGINAL POST from 6:27 a.m. Tuesday 6/11...

Falling Behind

Look, it is hard to complain about New Jersey's current weather situation. We have enjoyed so many spectacularly sunny, dry, comfortable weather days lately. It has been a welcome change of pace after our constantly rainy fall. And winter. And early spring.

This monthly summary of NJ precipitation statistics shows a lot of wet months over the last year. (ONJSC / Rutgers)
This monthly summary of NJ precipitation statistics shows a lot of wet months over the last year. (ONJSC / Rutgers)
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Despite the soggy start to 2024, things have dried up significantly over the last 60 days. In fact, since April, precipitation totals are running about 3 inches below normal. The greatest rainfall departures are located in the southern part of the state.

60-day precipitation departure-from normal estimates range from 1.5 to 4 inches, from north to south across New Jersey. (NOAA / NWS / MARFC)
60-day precipitation departure-from normal estimates range from 1.5 to 4 inches, from north to south across New Jersey. (NOAA / NWS / MARFC)
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Drought Monitor

Every week, the U.S. Drought Monitor report is updated by a partnership of weather and climate agencies led by the National Drought Mitigation Center. It gives a snapshot of hydrological conditions across the country, based on precipitation, streamflow, reservoir levels, temperature and evaporative demand, soil moisture and vegetation health.

It is important to note the Drought Monitor does not incorporate any forecasts — just observational data.

The U.S. Drought Monitor from June 4, 2024 shows serious conditions over southern New Mexico, and only a "blip" of drought over New Jersey. (National Drought Mitigation Center)
The U.S. Drought Monitor from June 4, 2024 shows serious conditions over southern New Mexico, and only a "blip" of drought over New Jersey. (National Drought Mitigation Center)
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New Jersey's Drought Monitor report as of June 4, 2024, showing approximately 32% of the state is "abnormally dry". (National Drought Mitigation Center)
New Jersey's Drought Monitor report as of June 4, 2024, showing approximately 32% of the state is "abnormally dry". (National Drought Mitigation Center)
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"D0" is the lowest of five categories on the drought monitor. In fact, we do not even call it "drought" at this stage. But it is an important upgrade that serves as an early "heads up" that conditions are trending in a bad direction.

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The Forecast

Remember, the Drought Monitor does not incorporate future model guidance or subjective forecaster input.

But I have to say the short-term weather forecast makes our drought situation even more precarious. We really need a good soaking, and it's just not coming.

The 5 Day Forecast only has one substantial chance of widespread rain, about a half-inch of rainfall from scattered thunderstorms on Friday.

Next week is trending hot and dry too, leading right into the Summer Solstice on Thursday 6/20.

The medium-range forecast for next week stays unusually dry. (NOAA / CPC)
The medium-range forecast for next week stays unusually dry. (NOAA / CPC)
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The latest 3-month precipitation outlook is more promising, suggesting New Jersey falls into a wetter trend for the rest of the summer months.

The summer season forecast suggests a rainier pattern will take hold through July and August. (NOAA / CPC)
The summer season forecast suggests a rainier pattern will take hold through July and August. (NOAA / CPC)
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So What?

To be crystal clear, I am not suggesting this is a dire "doom and gloom" situation. Yet.

In fact, reservoir levels across New Jersey are just fine. All green lights.

Serious drought comes with serious environmental and economic consequences. No, it is not time to worry. But our drought situation will likely get worse before it gets beffore. And if the usually-stormy summer season continues to trend dry, I would be concerned about water restrictions, effects on the autumn harvest, and more.

So, for now, we watch and wait. We will have weekly updates, with special notes when upgrades (or downgrades) in our drought status occur.

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Check out Dan's weather blog or follow him on Facebook for your latest weather forecast updates.

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