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Relief from Maine's drought? Don't count on it any time soon

The U.S. Drought Monitor map of Maine with the latest data from July 26.
U.S. Drought Monitor
The U.S. Drought Monitor map of Maine with the latest data from July 26.

The lower two-thirds of Maine will need more than six inches of rain in the next few weeks to overcome the current drought conditions.

But the prospect seems unlikely, given the current forecast and trends for this month.

State climatologist Sean Birkel, also an assistant extension professor at the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute and Cooperative Extension, said there have been reports of wells going dry, particularly in the southwestern part of Maine. More heat is in the forecast for the next 10 days.

At this time of year, the best opportunity for rain comes in the form of afternoon thunderstorms that have a limited impact on a small number of areas, Birkel said.

The exception, he said, was a storm that provided a soaking rain a few weeks ago across much of Maine.

"We really need several of those events," Birkel said. "But the precipitation deficits, again, they're now, in some areas, several inches. And this time of year it's very difficult to make that up."

Rain is at near normal levels in much of Aroostook County and the northern parts of Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties. Some areas in northern Maine have small surpluses, Birkel said.

It's perhaps why across Maine, current drought conditions aren't quite as bad as they were in 2020.

"Things are not yet at that level," Birkel said. "Of course, it's a little different in terms of the distribution of the areas of drought across the state. But we'll have to see how things go through August, and then of course into September."

On an annual basis, Maine is expected to become wetter due to climate change. But Birkel said he's studying whether short periods of drought, perhaps like the one Maine is experiencing now, will become more common over time.