Perspective on the Drought

This morning about 40 percent of the state was upgraded from severe drought to extreme drought. With rainfall deficits of nearly 20 inches since January 1, 2015 across parts of north central Connecticut this classification is not a surprise. 

Extreme drought has all sorts of problems associated with it. People with shallow wells are without water, cities and towns with small reservoir systems are beginning to run low on water, farmers are dealing with crop losses due to the unusually dry soil conditions.

While it's fair to say this is the worst drought in decades it pales in comparison to the big drought of 1962-1966. The drought in the mid-1960s remains the most significant on record. Take the Metropolitan District Commission reservoir system that serves greater Hartford as an example. The Barkhamsted and Nepaug Reservoirs are currently at 76.2% but in 1965 they dipped to 46%. For a reservoir system with a capacity of 40 billion gallons this is a big difference!

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Another way tolook at this in a quantitative way is to use the Palmer Drought Severity Index. Currently the PDSI is <-4.00 across the state which puts our three climate divisions in extreme drought.. 

The current -4.15 PDSI in Litchfield County is a bit worse than the 2002 drought which spiked at -3.82 in 2002. But between 1964 and 1966 the PDSI was <4.00 (extreme drought) for an extended period of time. From March 1965 through August 1966 we were in extreme drought continuously- with values approaching -5 several months (it did reach -5 in other parts of northern Connecticut which is considered exceptional drought). We've had 1 month of extreme drought - the 1960s extreme drought lasted for 17 months!


Of course, there's nothing to say that this drought won't continue to get worse. The estimate is that we would need approximately 10" of rain to get out of any kind of drought classification. It's hard to make up a lot of ground in the winter (our climatologically driest season) but you never know. Hope for rain and help conserve water!

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