(WGHP) – It may seem ironic to bring up drought when we’ve seen rainfall all week, but the driest months of the year are upon us and the drought conditions heading into those months could make a big difference come spring.
While the winter solstice may not officially usher in the season until Dec. 21, meteorological winter is already here as of Dec. 1.
Just like winter 2021-2022, NOAA is predicting another La Niña winter for the Triad. A La Niña winter typically means warmer and drier conditions for the Piedmont Triad, and drought conditions typically continue to worsen through the winter months.
But, this year, we are in much better shape heading into the winter months than we were in 2021.
In early December 2021, drought conditions were present in nearly the entire state with only about 1% of North Carolina spared. About 51% of the Tar Heel state saw severe (level 2) drought conditions. The Triad saw moderate (level 1) to severe drought (level 2) conditions.
This year, nearly half the state, 46%, is not experiencing drought conditions. About 21% of North Carolina is seeing level 1 (moderate) drought with the main area concentrated in southeastern North Carolina, and another 33% is abnormally dry. No areas are included in level 2 drought or higher.
The only portion of the Piedmont that’s experiencing abnormally dry conditions is Montgomery County and the eastern half of Caswell county. The rest of the Piedmont Triad is not experiencing drought.
The reason most of our area is not in drought conditions is because of how much rain we’ve seen this year.
Only April, June, August and October have been below normal for rainfall. While we’re still below normal for rainfall in December, we’re only in the first week of the month, and this week’s rain has us on track to possibly see normal rainfall for the month.
From Jan. 1 through Dec. 7, 2022, the Piedmont Triad International Airport received 44.58 inches of rainfall. This puts us more than 3 inches above normal for this year.
When compared to the same time period in 2021, we were in the exact opposite situation. Last year, a total of nine months recorded below-normal rainfall. From Jan. 1 through Dec. 7, 2021, PTI airport had received 39.05 inches, nearly 2.5 inches below normal.
In 2021, we ended the year with below-normal rainfall from August through December. However, this year, we started the year with above-normal rainfall and then were able to keep a balance between above-normal and below-normal rainfall each month.
The rainfall at the start of this year helped us rebound from the drought conditions we were experiencing in December 2021. The balance between wet and dry conditions each month of 2022 has allowed us to see nearly 4 inches of rainfall more than last year.
Why is it important to note the lack of drought conditions heading into winter?
December, January and February are typically the driest months of the year in the Piedmont Triad.
It’s important to know if we’re already experiencing drought conditions because that can help determine how severe drought may be by springtime.
According to NOAA’s winter outlook, most of the southeastern United States is expected to see worsening drought conditions this winter. This is because of the La Niña pattern where this area of the country is warmer and drier through the winter months.
While drought can occur at any time, it’s a good thing that we’re heading into the driest part of the year with little to no drought in place for nearly half the state.