DEP issues Drought Watch for Northeast NJ

Confirming what we all have been observing with increased intensity over the past several weeks, the Department of Environmental Protection today officially issued a Drought Watch for Northeast New Jersey. The Drought Watch officially spans 12 counties and includes nearly 75% of the states population, or 6.2 million residents, including major cities like Newark and New Brunswick.

Rainfall totals over the past three months have been hovering near 50 percent of normal for much of Northern New Jersey, with ground water levels dipping significantly over that time period. The USDA warned of drought about two months ago, when they placed Northeastern New Jersey in a “D1- Moderate Drought” category. But the drought has expanded and worsened over recent weeks. In the last 60 days, the Mid Atlantic River Forecast Center suggests that Northeast New Jersey is running 51 to 75 percent below average precipitation.

60 Day Mean Areal Precipitation and departures from normal. (MARFC)

60 Day Mean Areal Precipitation and departures from normal. (MARFC)

The Drought Watch is the first action taken by the DEP in terms of conservation and response to drought conditions. A Drought Watch does not require any water conservation or restrictions, but it does encourage voluntary conservation. Local government offices can also choose to act on the Drought Watch to put such measures in place.

While the pattern in late fall to early winter during El Nino conditions can often be wetter than normal in our area, forecast models over the next week or two do not offer any help. The pattern in the atmosphere remains benign, and the jet stream is displaced well too far north to expect increased storm activity. In fact, the GFS model suggests absolutely zero (0.0″) precipitation in New York City or New Jersey over the next 10 days.

GFS model showing 0.0" of precipitation in NYC through the next 10 days.

GFS model showing 0.0″ of precipitation in NYC through the next 10 days.

Such conditions would obviously cause increased problems, with a worsening drought. The DEP offers these tips for helping to conserve water, even with only a Drought Watch in place:

Stay tuned for updates on the drought conditions over the next several days and weeks — with additional tips and information on how to conserve.