Crops withering on the vine. Lush green fields morphing into a shade of golden-brown. Cracked river beds due to receding water levels.
The effects of a significant and widespread drought — exacerbated by high temperatures and a lack of substantial rain — have been clear throughout Massachusetts this summer.
The entire state is experiencing drought conditions on some level, with nearly 44 percent seeing severe drought readings and almost 94 percent under moderate drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor’s website.
The monitor released the data on Thursday, and said the readings were valid as of Tuesday morning.
Areas experiencing severe drought include Middlesex County, parts of Worcester County, Essex County, Suffolk County, Norfolk County, Bristol County, and parts of Plymouth County, according to the website. Under these conditions, the impacts can range from the yield size and fruit size of specialty crops being affected to both the air and water quality being considered poor.
In a moderate drought, which most of the state is under, the chances of wildfires can increase and voluntary water conservation is often requested, according to the monitor.
As of Monday, more than 100 cities and towns throughout the state had imposed mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. Many of those restrictions were put in place during the spring and early summer.
Lisa Kumpf, river science program manager for the Charles River Watershed Association, said in a statement that the group has received numerous reports about “critically low water levels throughout our watershed over the past few weeks.”
“From Milford to Watertown, the Charles River and its tributaries are stagnant and even drying up, putting the health of the river ecosystem in grave danger,” Kumpf said.
On Tuesday, Watertown officials tweeted a pair of photos to highlight the difference in water levels between this year and last year at a city dam along the Charles River.
“The drought is especially evident there now,” officials said.
The conditions plaguing the state is a trend that experts say climate change will intensify.
While there is a chance that there will be “a couple of afternoon showers” on Thursday and Friday, according to meteorologist Dave Epstein, who writes a weather column for the Globe, it’s “more likely than not that you stay dry.”
“Severe drought expanded across southern New England over the past week,” he tweeted on Thursday. “No extreme drought yet, but if this pattern continues, it will show up.”
Here are some photos that show the effect the drought is having on Massachusetts so far.
Take a look at the difference of the Charles River water level at the Watertown dam in May 2021 vs. today, July 26, 2022. The drought is especially evident there now. @charlesriver pic.twitter.com/b5hTOiuXBp— City of Watertown, MA (@watertowngov) July 26, 2022
Serious drought here in Massachusetts. My raspberries are withering on the vine. pic.twitter.com/qtoFSi7ZSD— Rev. Laura Everett (@RevEverett) July 18, 2022
Today was the death kneel for some plants. Perennials can usually muster through this type of drought+heat & come back next year, but some of the woody plants are going to be dead. This is why climate change is so concerning, humans can adapt/move, plants animals not so easily. pic.twitter.com/QZJTCMqDSh— Dave Epstein (@growingwisdom) July 25, 2022
Drought stressing the trees....we'll begin to see much more of this in August if the dry pattern holds. https://t.co/b8YqKUZG0c— Jeremy Reiner (@jreineron7) July 26, 2022
If you aren't able to water your lawn in the #Boston area this is what your grass looks like. The drought here is very visible now. pic.twitter.com/SV9uMA0mWg— Mike Ventrice (@MJVentrice) July 24, 2022
#MADroughtLooksLike a dry stream bed at Fuller Brook in Wellesley, a @charlesriver tributary. The need for action on #drought is apparent! @mass_rivers pic.twitter.com/FWIFkDPVht— Lisa Kumpf (she/her) (@geolisa74) July 19, 2022
Most of Massachusetts is now under moderate drought. This should all be green. #climatechange pic.twitter.com/Iqy86LyWks— Matt Kelly (@compliancememe) July 24, 2022
Shannon Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.