CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor issues an update on drought status across the United States. Unfortunately, the trend over the past few weeks and months has felt grim for the Carolinas.
North Carolina drought
Right now, over 80% of the state of North Carolina is under “drier than normal” conditions. The biggest expansion lately, however, has been the moderate drought -- sitting at 47%. That means almost half the state needs multiple inches of rain to be back to normal.
NOTE: D0 (Abnormally Dry), which is currently listed as 81.1% for North Carolina, is not technically a level of drought. This is only the precursor to drought.
South Carolina drought
Our neighbor to the south isn’t much better. Almost three-quarters of the state -- 73.11% specifically -- is also under a dry designation or D0. But just like North Carolina, the moderate drought has extended to 36% of South Carolina.
The Charlotte area had a dry, drought designation starting in September. In a typical year, you get abundant moisture during the spring and summer months, which can hold you over throughout the dry season.
The last month in which there was above-normal rainfall in the Queen City was July. The drought was more notable after October, which had the largest departure from the normal rainfall of any month. But, November isn’t too far behind with the end of the month rapidly approaching.
When under a dry status, the worst impact can be felt when it is during the growing season when people will see a brown or browning lawn. Once an area is upgraded to moderate drought, this will stress plants, trees and crops.
The above impacts could have a long-term effect on trees and even future fall foliage. And while you may be thinking, 'It’s winter, who cares!' -- lake and stream levels can be lower during a drought and it impacts the local forecast too.
This is a time of year where we are cold and dry often. The Carolinas will also receive a lot of cold fronts which won’t bring much rain, but they will bring wind.
Drier than normal conditions, dry brush and leaves, low humidity, and elevated wind can often lead to elevated fire danger. Which you don’t want during the season of hot cocoa and bonfires!
How much rain is needed?
Going forward to fix this, the areas under a moderate drought will need 4 to 6 inches of rain above normal over the next three months to catch back up.
Realistically, we would need more than that to also curb the drought from getting worse since we’re only beginning the drier season.
The pattern throughout the winter months doesn't favor above-average rainfall, quite the opposite with mild and dry conditions to persist for the winter and early into the next Spring.
There is nothing in our local forecast to curb the drought anytime soon. The Charlotte area will likely be dry over the next week with models hinting at some rain in the 10-day forecast.