The 1980–81 Drought in Eastern Pennsylvania

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  • 1 Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104
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Newspapers, television, and newsweeklies contained numerous articles proclaiming drought conditions during 1980 and 1981. This study investigates the causes and consequences of the drought as it affected eastern Pennsylvania. Precipitation data indicate below-average amounts during this period, while temperature records show above-average values. These values show that a meteorological drought did occur in this region during 1980 and 1981. However, meteorological factors were only part of the cause of the region's water shortage.

In addition to analyzing the drought's meteorological origin, this study probes the anthropogenic and regional social-political causes and impacts of the water shortage. Although regional water storage facilities are adequate when below-average precipitation amounts occur in very local areas, they are not adequate when below-average amounts occur over larger regions. This inadequacy is compounded when demands such as the needs of other political regions and the river-basin ecological system are included in addition to the primary region's industrial and domestic water requirements. Thus, this paper illustrates some of the complexities involved in trying to prepare for the normal fluctuations in a climatic variable such as precipitation amount.

Newspapers, television, and newsweeklies contained numerous articles proclaiming drought conditions during 1980 and 1981. This study investigates the causes and consequences of the drought as it affected eastern Pennsylvania. Precipitation data indicate below-average amounts during this period, while temperature records show above-average values. These values show that a meteorological drought did occur in this region during 1980 and 1981. However, meteorological factors were only part of the cause of the region's water shortage.

In addition to analyzing the drought's meteorological origin, this study probes the anthropogenic and regional social-political causes and impacts of the water shortage. Although regional water storage facilities are adequate when below-average precipitation amounts occur in very local areas, they are not adequate when below-average amounts occur over larger regions. This inadequacy is compounded when demands such as the needs of other political regions and the river-basin ecological system are included in addition to the primary region's industrial and domestic water requirements. Thus, this paper illustrates some of the complexities involved in trying to prepare for the normal fluctuations in a climatic variable such as precipitation amount.

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