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Drought returns to the state

Almost six months after Massachusetts was declared drought free, abnormally dry conditions have returned to most of the state, according to the US Drought Monitor.

Another third of the state was in a moderate drought as of Tuesday, according to the drought monitor , a weekly federal report.

Abnormally dry is the monitor’s lowest drought intensity classification and it currently applies to 58.35 percent of the state, including much of Essex County, Bristol County, Plymouth County, and Western Massachusetts.

Norfolk County, Middlesex County, and Hampden County represent the 31.78 percent of the state currently experiencing a moderate drought, according to the data. Northern Worcester County is abnormally dry, while the southern half of the county is in a moderate drought.

Initial data indicates the drought resulted from a combination of warmer-than-average autumn temperatures and less precipitation, said Ellen Mecray, director of eastern regional climate services for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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“It’s been much warmer than normal this fall,” she said. “We also have rainfall at about 50 to 70 percent of the expected precipitation we were hoping for this fall.”

Samantha Borisoff, a climatologist with the Northeast Regional Climate Center, said parched land from last year’s dry weather could still be recovering, causing the region to fall back into a drought.

“Last year’s drought was definitely one of the worst since the 1960s,” she said. “It takes time to dig out of that hole that we were in, so there could have been some lingering dryness.”

The monitor declared an end to that drought on May 11 for the first time since it was announced in March 2015, the Globe reported.

Parts of southern Massachusetts, such as Barnstable County and Nantucket, remain drought-free.

Hurricane Jose dumped about 3 to 6 inches of rain on areas in the state’s southern region, Borisoff said, which is why they’re not experiencing a drought like their neighbors to the north.

She warned that if precipitation continues to be low for the next couple of months, the drought could linger into the spring.

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“We’re getting into the season where the ground will start to freeze, so anything that falls isn’t going to get into the ground,” she said. “One of the good things about it right now is that we’re coming out of the growing season, so that should hopefully mitigate some of the agricultural impacts of the drought.”

Still, she encouraged people to conserve water.

“We should always be paying attention to conserving water and using it wisely,” she said. “Droughts can happen here, and they will happen here.”


Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.