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Severe drought spreads across DC area

Severe drought spreads across DC area

A combination of extreme heat, relentless sunshine and a lack of rain is driving the drought in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area ever deeper. Much of the region is experiencing moderate to severe drought, according to the federal government’s latest drought monitor.

The drought has developed quickly and, because of its rapid onset, meets the criteria for a “flash drought.” It began in June and shows little sign of abating. Virginia had the driest June on record, and neighboring states were also unusually dry.

July has picked up where June left off. The thunderstorms that swept through the region Wednesday night brought minimal rainfall, and most areas have received 3 to 4 inches less than normal rainfall so far this summer.

The drought has worsened due to a vicious cycle: the hot sun dries out the soil and causes temperatures to rise. The rising temperatures then accelerate evaporation, which dries out the soil even more.

The District is experiencing its second hottest summer on record and just recorded its sixth consecutive day of temperatures reaching at least 97 degrees – the second longest such stretch on record.

This is how bad the drought is

The development of the Federal Government’s drought monitor in recent weeks shows how quickly the drought has spread and worsened throughout the region.

Much of the region is currently experiencing moderate to severe drought, the second and third levels on a scale of 1 to 5.

The drought has been made worse by the intense heat, but the main cause is the lack of rain. June and July are the wettest months in the region, but the weather is mostly sunny.

The county has had a 4.5-inch rainfall deficit since June 1. Since then, only 1.54 inches have fallen, the third-lowest amount on record. Baltimore and Dulles have received just 1.6 inches (eighth-driest rainfall on record) and 1.75 inches (second-driest rainfall on record), respectively, during the same period.

The lack of rainfall coincided with the summer solstice, when the sun shines most intensely. This affects vegetation: lawns turn brown and trees and other plants do not need water.

Better rain prospects

One piece of good news: Friday could see heavy rain, especially along and east of Interstate 95, where 1 inch or more of rain could fall. Amounts will taper off to the west.

Unfortunately, another round of extremely hot weather is forecast between Sunday and the middle of next week. Maximum temperatures of well over 30 degrees or even around 38 degrees will quickly dry out the land surface again.

But after next week’s heat wave, a more promising weather pattern for rain could develop. The area is expected to be located between heat domes in the southwestern United States and the western Atlantic, which will result in a southerly airflow.

This increases the humidity, but also increases the likelihood of rain showers and thunderstorms.

If the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane were to pass through the area, that would be the easiest way to make up for the rainfall deficit. An active hurricane season is forecast, but there are no immediate signs of a storm that could become a major rainmaker for us.