There’s something about the weather, particularly when it comes to hydrology, that creates an almost eye-rolling cycle of stories. If it’s not too dry, it’s too wet. With a changing climate, the normal also changes — for instance, while reporting a story on pollution running into Lake Champlain, I heard from officials on both sides of the lake that they’re seeing more rain and storms so intense they’re called “rain bombs,” a recipe for uncontrolled flashes of water that sweep pollution into the lake from fields and streets.
Some people notice all this. Others do not.
Two years ago, while I was reporter in the Southwest and had spent a few years covering a major drought, we had what seemed like an awfully rainy and cold winter for that part of the world. A few people I talked to regularly said, Oh yeah, this is strange weather for here. So, I called the National Weather Service and asked, Ain’t it awfully rainy and cold? Not really, the local meteorologist replied, it was only the 55th coldest stretch on record.
Such is the nature of human perception: We forget what happened or remember things that didn’t.
Through the end of January, there were abnormally dry and even moderate drought conditions in the Adirondacks, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Drought Monitor last week. There’s still a heck of a lot of water here compared to the southwest, but the relative dryness showed up a few times during my reporting: In July, because of a dry spell that had begun with last year’s mild winter, the Town of Long Lake told residents to stop washing their cars and watering their lawns to conserve water (that restriction has since been lifted). In late September, just before a good rain, I visited the Boquet River and saw worries that continued low flows could hurt the return of salmon (a few days later, after a rain, more salmon returned).
A big snow, of course, can change the regional picture and end the dry spell.
If it seems paradoxical to worry about more intense storms while also dealing with stretches of dryness, it’s not: If you average seven beers a week but have them all on Monday night, that’s different than having one beer each night.
But then we can start into another cycle of woe. We might go from drought to flood, if the snow melts too fast or a rain comes too hard.
With weather and water — it’s one thing to worry about and hope for after another.
Almanack archive photo
Editor’s note: This first appeared in Ry’s weekly “Water Line” newsletter. Click here to sign up.