Without significant short-term rain, the Garden State will continue plunging into a perilous rainfall deficit with big hydrological and agricultural effects.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor was issued Thursday morning, and it does not contain good news for New Jersey.

Drought Monitor for New Jersey, issued September 15, 2016. (NDMC-UNL)

Some important points from the above graphic:
--100 percent of New Jersey - literally every county and municipality - is now quantified as at least Abnormally Dry.
--Over 65 percent of New Jersey's land area now falls in the D1 drought category, described as Moderate Drought. This is a significant jump up from last week's 11 percent of N.J. land area in D1/Moderate Drought.
--The D1 drought area equates to about 81 percent of New Jersey's population.

The National Drought Mitigation Center justified their upgrade due to well above-normal temperatures, disappointing rainfall from Hermine and a passing cold front, and especially dry rainfall numbers from the past 30 to 60 days. (Late summer, on average, is New Jersey's wettest time of the year.)

By my math, we face a year-to-date rainfall deficit of about 9 inches in the northeastern part of the state. Meanwhile, the drought conditions are even worse in parts of Central New York and eastern New England, with spots in the Extreme Drought category.

U.S. Drought Monitor, issued September 15, 2016. (NDMC-UNL)

So what does this mean for the average New Jerseyan? Probably nothing. (Unless, of course, you're a farmer - in which case, you already know how dry this year has been.) The Drought Monitor is mostly designed for decision makers in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Weather Service, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to begin taking precautions to conserve water resources.

We have not yet heard of impending voluntary or mandatory water restrictions in New Jersey. However, unless we get significant rainfall soon, drought conditions may continue to worsen through the fall and winter seasons, necessitating such actions. (While we may get some steady or heavy rain on Sunday, it's not going to be a "drought-buster".)

The U.S. Drought Monitor is generated based on measurements of climatic, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country. The map is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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