For the latest updates on drought conditions, go to the current conditions map.
New York is rich with water resources. Our celebrated streams, lakes, and coasts are fed by an average annual precipitation that ranges from 60 inches in the Catskills to 28 inches in the Lake Champlain Valley. But even here, in our "temperate moist" climate, normal fluctuations in regional weather patterns can lead to periods of dry weather. Occasional drought is a normal, recurrent feature of virtually every climate in the United States. The last severe droughts in New York occurred in the mid-1960s, and again in the early and mid-1980s.
Determining Where There is Drought in New York
While most of us know that a drought is a prolonged period of dryness, the definition and information used to formally declare a drought is more complex. Meteorologists and hydrologists have their own precise definitions of drought. When meteorologists talk about drought they are comparing precipitation shortfalls to normal levels. Hydrologists consider stream flow and water levels in aquifers, lakes, and reservoirs along with precipitation. In New York, drought status determinations are based on a State Drought Index that uses New York State specific attributes, so it may differ somewhat from national drought assessments. In addition, local conditions may vary, so some areas of the state may make their own determinations of drought stage using locally-focused criteria. DEC supports efforts by local governments and stakeholders to undertake water conservation measures based on specific circumstances.
The State Drought Index compares four parameters to historic or "normal" values to evaluate drought conditions: stream flows, precipitation, lake and reservoir storage levels, and groundwater levels. New York's Drought Management Task Force uses those factors as well as water use, duration of the dry period, and season to assess drought in different parts of the state. The State Drought Index helps us assess the impact on water supply, the regional economy, and the environment.
New York also tracks other drought measurements including the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI). These other indicators can be used to evaluate the level of soil moisture, which can help us understand potential impacts to agriculture.
Useful links for drought information:
Northeast Regional Climate Center Northeast Drought Early Warning System Dashboard
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Integrated Drought Information System