Areas of drought are expanding across Florida
The greater Tampa Bay region is one of the driest areas in the state.
A drought is developing across most of the Sunshine State, and little relief is expected over the next few weeks.
On Thursday the Drought Monitor, released on a weekly basis by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and the US Department of Agriculture, classified just under half of Florida’s landmass under a drought.
This statistic has jumped about 10% since just last week. The driest areas—those under a moderate drought—include the Tampa metro, North Florida west of I-75 and the coast of the Panhandle
Although the winter months are considered Florida’s dry season, the past few months have been exceedingly dry. Year to date rainfall departures from the Panhandle to interior South Florida range from about 2 inches below normal to up to 10 inches below normal.
In addition to the lack of rainfall, several days long bouts of above average temperature continue to impact Florida, which has assisted in parching the landscape. Scientists blame both below average rainfall and recent stretches of above average heat for the proliferation of the drought.
Climate signals suggest that the drought will likely only expand in the coming weeks.
Mid and long range forecasts issued by the Climate Prediction Center suggest that temperatures over the next month or so will trend above average, and precipitation will likely trend below normal. This is not to say our state won’t have any cool or rainy days over the next few weeks, but that the majority will be warm and dry.
As a result, the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook predicts that over the entire state, drought will either develop or intensify through the end of May.
As vegetation continues to dry, and water tables run low it is important to heed water and fire management policies enacted by local officials. Before starting outdoor burns, check with the Florida Forest Service for any burn bans or limitations that may be in effect in your area.
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