It’s another sunny and dry day across much of Maine. It’s been quite a month, but seeing all these days with bright blue skies also means it’s not raining. When you hear the term drought you might think of California or Texas, but usually not New England. Here in this part of the country regular periods of rain keep things generally green all summer and melting winter snow fills the ground water each spring.

Since 2015, much of New England, especially along the coastal plain, hasn’t received normal precipitation and the result is an expanding drought.

It’s been dry for a while

All that snow two winters ago just didn’t have a lot of moisture. Follow that by a dry summer a year ago and since February 2015 most months have seen less than average rainfall. Including this month, 12 of the past 17 months have been below average for moisture.

rainfall pwn

The plus side of all this dry weather is the sunshine and lack of humidity. I can’t recall a June with so many days that are simply perfect. Day after day of stunning weather and night after night of temperatures ideal for sleeping are just not commonplace this time of year. In some respects, this has been more like the month of September with three hours more of daylight.

However, there are several downsides to the dry weather and if the pattern continues it’s only going to become worse. One thing you might have noticed over the past few weeks are trees which are defoliated.  This is likely a result of gypsy moth caterpillars, which haven’t been much of an issue the past few years. You might wonder how this is related to the drought. The answer is a fungus which needs moisture to grow successfully and reach levels to keep the insects in check. Less fungus means a larger population of caterpillars.

Future issues

If the dry weather continues, the trees which have been defoliated, are put under more stress and dieback can occur. It’s unlikely one year of defoliation and drought would kill a tree, but it could if a tree was already declining.

The present weather pattern shows no signs of breaking down.  There are showers in the forecast Tuesday night and Wednesday, but although you may see some rain, I am not expecting much in the way of rain totals. When you read a high chance of showers, that terminology means there is a high chance of rain amounting to at least one-hundredth of an inch, that’s insignificant.  Many drought stricken areas are 10 inches below average since last spring and a few summertime thunderstorms won’t change that fact.   The map below shows southern most Maine has been very dry for the past three years!

The past three years over all has been dry

The past three years over all has been dry

The reality is, unless there is a tropical system which reaches New England this summer, we will likely have to wait until fall before truly beneficial rains arrive. Could July and August turn wet with lots of showers? Absolutely, but that’s not as likely as the dry pattern continuing.

Already lawns are browning and any farms without irrigation are starting to see their crops languish. The weather might continue to feature lots of sunshine, but as summer rolls on, the drought of 2016 may become the bigger story.

Follow my forecasts on Twitter throughout the summer @growingwisdom