WASHINGTON – The rain falling on Maryland this week ends what was one of the driest months on record, with less than one-tenth of an inch of rain recorded in the Baltimore region in October.
The normal rainfall for the month is just under 3 inches, say weather officials. Maryland only had drier Octobers in 1924 and 1963.
But this October was an anomaly in a year that has otherwise seen above- average rainfall. Maryland Agriculture Department spokesman Tony Evans said that this year’s rainfall to date is 4 inches above average, after heavier-than- normal rainfall in the early summer months and September.
“The surplus we got earlier this year helped us,” said Evans. “Rain is like a bank account. We take short-term withdrawals, but you have to make long- term deposits.”
It is best for farmers when the withdrawals are made at the appropriate times, Evans added. This year’s record corn crop was aided by the unusual October climate, for example.
“The dry weather allowed for perfect harvest conditions for corn and soybeans,” Evans said. “The fields weren’t muddy and it helped dry the corn.”
But Evans cautioned that the effects of the weather are never homogeneous: Wheat, barley and rye seeds planted this month might germinate later than desired because of the dry weather, he said, which could lead to tender plants unable to withstand harsh freezes.
Jerry Spessard, of the Hagers-Town Town & Country Almanack, said that there indeed could be some harsh freezes this winter and that last month’s dryness will be drastically reversed in the coming months.
Specifically, Spessard forecasts that there will be some form of precipitation on half of all winter days in Maryland, where freezing temperatures will hit on 80 percent of the days. Those factors will generate 25 percent more snowfall this year than last, he said.
“I just think you are going to have a rainy, rainy winter and it is going to be very cold as well,” said Spessard.
Not all weather prognosticators shared the Almanack’s views. Bob Chartuck, a spokesman for the National Weather Service, said “we are going to have an average winter.” That means about 3 inches of rain each month in December, January and February.
Wendy McPherson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, hopes the rain comes soon, since it is needed recharge Maryland’s aquifers and streams. She said this is a crucial season for water-supply replenishment because growing plants take up the water or it evaporates in the warm weather at other times of the year.
But she would not predict how much rain Maryland will get.
“Predicting weather is harder than predicting presidential elections,” McPherson concluded.