FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The combination of an extended period of abnormally dry weather and above-normal temperatures has plunged much of North Carolina into drought, and projections for 2022 suggest conditions will not improve.
“We had a very wet start to the year, dried out for most of spring, and then had some big events peppered throughout the summer,” State Climatologist Kathie Dello told The Fayetteville Observer. “But these past few months have been relentlessly dry.”
In the latest drought map, a belt of “severe drought” extends from roughly Statesville through Charlotte and the Fayetteville area into northeastern North Carolina. The U.S. Drought Monitor says severe drought means water users should eliminate nonessential uses of water and prepare for possible mandatory water restrictions.
Early projections tied to a La Nina weather system in the equatorial Pacific show it could continue into 2022. According to NASA, La Nina is expected to stick around until at least spring 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere.
La Nina occurs when trade winds that generally push warm water westward along the equator from South America to Asia are stronger than usual. Off the U.S. West Coast, that leads to an increase in cold seawater rising to the surface to replace the displaced water. It also pushes the jet stream northward.
Dello said North Carolina tends to tilt warm and dry in a La Nina year. But last year also was a La Nina winter, and it brought above-normal precipitation to the state.
With most lawns, fields and forests brown and dormant these days and low temperatures keeping down evaporation rates, current effects from the dry weather are largely cosmetic. Several farmers and state agricultural officials said groundwater tables also remain relatively healthy, with effects on wells largely negligible so far.
But Dello and Tim Armstrong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, warned that could change quickly in the spring when agricultural and residential needs for water intensify as the growing season starts and temperatures increase.
Feature photo of Moore County sunset by Sandhills Sentinel Photographer John Patota.
Copyright 2021, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.