Most of the Florida peninsula was declared Abnormally Dry on Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor — a precursor to full-blown drought.
That puts the entire state under either Abnormally Dry or Moderate Drought, with the exception of southeastern Broward County, most of Miami-Dade, The Florida Keys, and a thin strip of the western panhandle that has been hammered by rain associated with stalled cold fronts.
The only surprising thing is that the designation didn’t happen sooner — the peninsula has been dry most of the summer and fall with the exception of October in East-Central Florida, which was hit with rains from Hurricane Matthew.
Interestingly, West Palm Beach has a small precipitation surplus for December with 2.6 inches of rain through Thursday — which is 0.22 of an inch on the plus side for the month.
But prior to this month there hasn’t been a month in the area with a rainfall surplus since May, despite record heat.
Here are the deficits: November, -3.75 inches; October, -0.76; September, -0.31; August, -1.25; July, -4.17; and June, -3.78. And although May was about a half-inch on the plus side, rainfall shortages also appeared in February, March and April.
In releasing the analysis, the Drought Monitor noted: “Florida’s peninsula has been unusually dry — even by dry-season standards — for the last 2 months, and USDA’s topsoil moisture statistics continued to reflect significant short-term dryness.
“On December 18, Florida’s statewide topsoil moisture was rated 46 percent very short to short, compared to the 5-year average of 35 percent.
“Agricultural impacts of Florida’s short-term dryness included heavy irrigation requirements in the Citrus Belt to keep moisture in the ground and on the trees. In addition, deteriorating pasture conditions (31 percent very poor to poor, statewide) are resulting in many of Florida’s cattle producers to use supplemental feeding.
“Finally, farmers in parts of Florida are reporting that conditions are too dry for the planting of winter grains and cover crops. Accordingly, D0 (abnormal dryness) was introduced across much of Florida’s peninsula.”
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has called for below normal precipitation in Florida from January through March, and the shorter-term forecast is for dry weather through at least the first week in January.