Friday, June 24, 2016

WE ARE IN A MODERATE DROUGHT- NO RELIEF IN SITE

As I have been stating in my posts since April 26, 2016, we are in a drought. The Morning Call finally recognized the seriousness of  this situation in todays paper. Everything  I have said has to fruition. Please request LCA to start cutting back on well withdrawals along the Little Lehigh Creek. Here is an email that I sent to DRBC expressing my concerns.

As a hydrologist myself, I am seriously concerned with the drought conditions we are experiencing in the Little Lehigh Creek Watershed.  As you are probably aware, the Little Lehigh Creek is fed by multiple springs in a karst topography. We are the home of many water bottling companies which produce water for the entire country. The withdrawal of millions of gallons of water in our watershed is an attestment to this fact.

The current base flow in the Little Lehigh Creek is far below normal at this time. I want to bring to your attention some facts which lead me to express that the DRBC in conjunction with PADEP should issue a drought warning at this time for our area and work in conjunction with the Lehigh County Water Authority(LCA) to start curtailing water withdrawals from their wells.

1. The Little Lehigh Creek Watershed has experienced little or no ground water recharge since January. After the record 32 inch snowfall, there has been little snow or rain to recharge our groundwater supply with much below precipitation in the last several months in the watershed. Most of the precipitation recorded at the Lehigh Valley International Airport has been spotty- hit and miss precipitation which in many cases as missed the Little Lehigh Creek watershed and is also not an accurate depiction of the actual rainfall in the watershed.

2. The Palmer Index indicates we are in a moderate drought with deficits in precipitation running close to 6-9 inches. This is critical concern because this is a reliable measurement of a true drought and its conditions.

3. The residents are now experiencing brown lawns and wilted gardens. Lawn watering is becoming a daily occurrence, further reducing the groundwater levels and baseflow in the Little Lehigh Creek.

4.  Should the base flow go underground, the upper reaches of the Little Lehigh Creek environment will be destroyed and it will be years before this HQ stream will be returned to normal.

5. The USGS  flood gauge  for the Little Lehigh Creek at 10th street in Allentown has been off-line for almost two years because of the removal of the Robin Hood low flow dam. This dam removal has subjected the creek to poor hydrological flow data to actually depict base flow conditions, especially for the upper reaches of the stream and for Mt. Holly to issue flood warnings if needed on the Little Lehigh Creek.

6. Lastly LCA has not recognized the seriousness of this drought and needs to awoken before the stream goes dry, especially in the Lower Macungie Township area. I base this lack of concern on the fact that they have now are utilizing Schantz Spring as an additional  water resource since the merger with the city of Allentown Water and Wastewater System in 2013. Somebody needs to be concerned about the surface water resources and not just the groundwater resources. I believe this is the the role of the DRBC.

I believe I have given you plenty of factual information why the DRBC should be involved at this time and should inform LCA to invoke any drought plan they have on the books. I would also encourage a drought warning to be issued for our area at your next meeting with PADEP.   I also have an extensive meteorology background as well and  I assure that the forecast for heavy rains to alleviate this drought are not coming anytime soon unless we a have a tropical storm system strike our region. I welcome you to review my weather blog for your perusal as well as my linkedin page for my credentials. I have been calling this drought since April. Thank you and I await your reply.

Friday, June 10, 2016

I AM DEAD SERIOUS ON WHY WE SHOULD BE IN A DROUGHT WATCH ISSUED BY DEP

 I just looked at the recent forecast models. Its deplorable.  I see no significant rainfall for the next week. Sure we will have a chance of thunderstorm on Saturday but one fast moving cold front squall line is not going to break the drought we are presently in. If we are real lucky and I mean real lucky, we could see an inch of rain but that is it. So why am I concerned?

The Palmer Index in which most agriculturists and hydrologists rely on for soil moisture content and current drought conditions this week has listed our are as needing almost six inches of rain to break the drought conditions. That is a reduction of over 40% -50%  of the rain we usually see for this time of the year. In reality though, the conditions are far worse. With the lack of a good groundwater recharge this spring, the Little Lehigh Creek is approaching extremely low baseline flows for this time of the year. Whats unusual about the these conditions is that the drought is not self evident other than the low flows in our are rivers and creeks. Here is what you see:

a. The grass and weeds are growing at a fantastic rate becaus ethere has been enough just enough rain to keep the the first few inches of topsoil moist enough to allow these grasses to grow.

b. The tree leafed out late as a result of the below normal cooler temperatures. This extended leaf out conditions from the lack of rain this spring took away in remaining mositure in the soil below the first few inches.

c.  The cooler than usual weather conditions and the unusual extremely windy western winds have managed to act as a Santa Ana wind conditions in the Lehigh Valley the past week and has successfully evaporated any moisture left in the ground after this weeks hit and miss rainfall  event.

d. Lastly, the only saving grace has been the cooler temps have not kept the the immediate surface of the soil profile from being completely dry. This will change once the temps have reached back in the upper 80's in another week. It will appear the lawns will turn yellow and brown overnight and of course people will start watering their lawns and gardens more often.

I see no relief to this weather pattern as the very windy Canadian High pressure systems dominate our weather pattern. You will see very windy and drying conditions on Sunday again after Saturdays brief rainfall event. When the Bermuda  Highs finally starts taking over, then we will get more rainfall.  In simplistic terms, the Gulf of Mexico humidity has been shutoff for our area by these strong Canadian Highs pushing the cold fronts further south than usual this time for this time of the year. It will take a tropical storm or hurricane to break this pattern as I have seen in this scenario before from going to a stong El Nino weather pattern to a La Nina weather pattern. We are caught in the middle and literally hung out to dry.

With the cold fronts hanging up in the Gulf of Mexico and dying out, chances are actually increasing for tropical storm/hurricane development. Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas will be blasted with flooding rains if this weather pattern continues. Hopefully one of these storms can reach us as it rides along the coast otherwise  I see drought warnings before the end of July for our area and water restrictions in place by LCA.