The Morning Call interviewed Christa Kelleher, hydrologist and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, regarding an expansive drought that’s creeping across the country.

With precipitation across the Lehigh Valley 3.84″ below normal over the last five months, the area needs rainstorms in the coming days and weeks with enough moisture to have a meaningful impact, before lingering water deficits become a larger problem.

“We don’t think of winter as being a time of drought,” Kelleher said. “We always think of summers being associated with drought. So the fact that we’re a couple of inches behind right now means that we sort of start (the spring) with a precipitation deficit that propagates into soil moisture, that propagates into streamflow,” said Kelleher, who received a national hydrology award in 2020 that is presented each year to only one scientist in the United States. “We have to make sure that we have moisture and streamflow available for later because it takes time for water to move through the subsurface and then eventually make it to the streams. So we will see sort of that time lag associated with a lack of (winter) precipitation or lack of soil moisture, likely impacting our stream flows now.”

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