Historic 2012 U.S. drought: 6th greatest on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 10:59 PM GMT on July 16, 2012

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The great drought of 2012 is upon us. The percentage area of the contiguous U.S. covered by moderate or greater drought increased to 56% by the end of June, and ranked as the sixth largest drought since U.S. weather records began in 1895, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in their monthly State of the Climate drought report on Monday. The last time more of the U.S. was in drought occurred in December 1956, with 58%. June 2012 ranked as the 10th greatest U.S. drought on record, when considering the percentage area of the U.S. in severe or greater drought (33%.)


Figure 1. June 2012 ranked in sixth place for the greatest percent area of the contiguous U.S. covered by moderate or greater drought, since record keeping began in 1895. Graphic created from data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

The forecast: hot and dry with increasing drought
The great drought of 2012 is going to steadily worsen during the remainder of July. Recent runs of the global computer forecast models predict a continuation through the end of July of the large-scale jet stream patterns that have brought the U.S. its hot, dry summer weather. The most extreme heat will tend to be focused over the center portion of the county. That was certainly the case Monday, with temperatures near or in excess of 100° observed from South Dakota to Michigan. High temperatures near 100°F are expected in Chicago and Detroit on Tuesday, and over much of the Midwest.


Figure 2. Comparison of drought between June 2012 (top) and June 1988 (bottom) shows that drought conditions covered a similar proportion of the contiguous U.S., but the spatial patterns were different. The 2012 drought is especially intense over the Southwest U.S., but in 1988, this region experienced a very active summer monsoon season that kept the region moist. However, in 1988, the Northern Plains were much drier than in 2012. Image credit: NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.

A multi-billion dollar drought disaster underway
Agronomists and drought experts are comparing the scale and intensity of the 2012 drought to the 1988 drought. With the forecast offering little optimism, the costs of the 2012 drought are certain to be many billions of dollars, and the disaster could be one of the top ten most expensive weather-related disasters in U.S. history. Droughts historically have been some of the costliest U.S. weather disasters. A four-year drought and locust plague from 1874 - 1877 cost $169 billion (2012 dollars), and was arguably the most expensive weather related disaster in U.S. history (see Jeffrey Lockwood's 2004 book, Locust.) The costs of the great Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, which displaced 2.5 million people, are incalculable. The costs of government financial assistance alone were $13 billion in 2012 dollars (Warrick, 1980.) The 1988 drought cost $78 billion (2012 dollars), the second most expensive weather disaster since 1980, behind Hurricane Katrina.

The associated heat wave of the great drought of 2012 is also a major concern. The heat waves associated with the great droughts of 1980 and 1988 killed between 7,500 - 10,000 people, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. The heat waves of the 1930s are blamed for 5,000 deaths. The death toll from the 2012 heat wave is approaching 100, including 23 in Chicago, up to 19 in Wisconsin, 18 in Maryland, 17 in St. Louis, and 9 in Philadelphia. The toll will undoubtedly grow as more heat-related deaths are discovered, and as the heat continues.


Figure 3. The U.S. has seen twelve weather-related disasters costing at least $15 billion since 1980, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Two of the top three most expensive disasters have been droughts.

Tornadoes kill one, injure ten in Poland
A series of rare tornadoes hit northern and western Poland over the weekend, killing one and injuring ten. At least 100 homes were destroyed, and one of the twisters measured 1 km (0.6 miles) in diameter. Tornadoes are quite rare in Poland. According to the publication, An updated estimate of tornado occurrence in Europe by Nikolai Dotzek (2003), Poland reports about two tornadoes per year, and probably has two more per year that are unreported. Thanks go to wunderground member beell for posting this link.


Video 1. Raw footage of the weekend tornadoes that hit Poland.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Hurricane Elida, 2002... It went from 30kts to 120kts in 24 hours... Now that is RI:

ZCZC MIATCDEP1 ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM
TROPICAL DEPRESSION SIX-E DISCUSSION NUMBER 1
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
8 AM PDT TUE JUL 23 2002

THE TROPICAL DISTURBANCE SOUTH OF MEXICO HAS BECOME BETTER ORGANIZED
AND SATELLITE INTENSITY ESTIMATES INDICATE THAT IS NOW A TROPICAL
DEPRESSION....ON THE VERGE OF BECOMING A TROPICAL STORM. THE SYSTEM
IS LARGE WITH PLENTY OF CONVECTIVE BANDS AND WELL DEFINED OUTFLOW.
THE SHEAR IS LOW AND THE OCEAN IS WARM THEREFORE...THE DEPRESSION IS
FORECAST TO BECOME A HURRICANE IN ABOUT 48 HOUR OR LESS. THIS IS
CONSISTENT WITH BOTH SHIPS AND SHIFOR AND THE INTENSITY TREND
SUGGESTED BY GLOBAL MODELS.

THE LOW-LEVEL CENTER IS DIFFICULT TO LOCATE WITH THE LIMITED VISIBLE
IMAGES WHILE QUIKSCAT IS SHOWING AN ELONGATED CIRCULATION. THE BEST
ESTIMATE OF THE INITIAL MOTION IS 280/12 BUT IS RATHER UNCERTAIN AT
THIS TIME. THE SAME HIGH PRESSURE RIDGE CONTROLLING THE MOTION OF
DOUGLAS IS ALSO STEERING THE DEPRESSION TOWARD THE WEST. BECAUSE THE
RIDGE IS FORECAST TO PERSIST...THIS GENERAL MOTION SHOULD CONTINUE
THROUGH THE FORECAST PERIOD. AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED IN
ANTICIPATED.

FORECASTER AVILA

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL 23/1500Z 11.6N 98.8W 30 KTS
12HR VT 24/0000Z 11.8N 100.5W 40 KTS
24HR VT 24/1200Z 12.5N 103.0W 50 KTS
36HR VT 25/0000Z 13.0N 106.0W 60 KTS
48HR VT 25/1200Z 14.0N 109.5W 70 KTS
72HR VT 26/1200Z 15.0N 115.5W 75 KTS


NNNN
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32802
Quoting HurricaneDean07:
Okay. Im gone.
Be back in September...
you will be back by aug 2nd thats when the first major should be traverseing the atlantic basin
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Hurricane Elida, 2002... It went from 30kts to 120kts in 24 hours... Now that is RI:

No clue why I posted this... I guess I was inspired by TA 13's post 85.
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Quoting wxchaser97:
If I see like 15+" I've seen more snow than last winter.
I didnt even get that much snow, and I live in New England.
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Okay. Im gone.
Be back in September...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

We got Gilbert in 1988 too.



What's that mean? Nothing. I just wanted to point it out, lol.

No! It means were going to have another Gilbert this year!
*Sarcasm flag (ON)*
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Just another typical satellite view of the Pacific today

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I forgot, What does the warming of the Bay of Guinea trigger? Because its warming...
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Good observation TWAx13. Each one of those years had a strong ridge over the US. 1934 for example had systems forced south near the US.




See something similar? Both these storms, like Alberto and Beryl, where forced to not travel north like they should have. This is even more noticeably in 1936, which had a similar drought scale to the current one.











And then lastly, this CV major did not recurve like it should have.


See a trend? In each case, the ridge built in over the systems and did not allow the storms to take a northly path, instead the ridge forced it away. This is similar to what we've already seen so far this season.

We got Gilbert in 1988 too.



What's that mean? Nothing. I just wanted to point it out, lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32802
Can we not post so many of those tonight? thanks :).
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17793
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Someone needs to go check SST anomaly maps and the latest update from the CPC. :P

Seriously, if anything, the PDO has became stronger and waters in the equatorial Pacific have cooled over the past 2-3 weeks. It used to be 0.7C but is now down to 0.4C.

The Cooler waters have come further south, YES. But the El Nino is gradually building in, and the Cool ring down the Pacific coast has been broken apart and warmer waters is heading toward the west coast. The Negative PDO is slowly coming apart... It shall stick around for about another month until El Nino become more evident, and then will flip the switch to Positive, and El Nino will be in Full Swing.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Someone needs to go check SST anomaly maps and the latest update from the CPC. :P

Seriously, if anything, the PDO has became stronger and waters in the equatorial Pacific have cooled over the past 2-3 weeks. It used to be 0.7C but is now down to 0.4C.

This map:
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Good observation TWAx13. Each one of those years had a strong ridge over the US. 1934 for example had systems forced south near the US.




See something similar? Both these storms, like Alberto and Beryl, where forced to not travel north like they should have. This is even more noticeably in 1936, which had a similar drought scale to the current one.











And then lastly, this CV major did not recurve like it should have.


See a trend? In each case, the ridge built in over the systems and did not allow the storms to take a northly path, instead the ridge forced it away. This is similar to what we've already seen so far this season.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
That will be good for the economy for sure.


Yep! Clean too.
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Quoting cajunkid:
Shell may build $10 billion gas-to-diesel process plant in Louisiana

Link
That will be good for the economy for sure.
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Until Ernesto or Florence forms in the Atlantic... Im not going to be appearing on the blog.
Be back in September...
I will be way too busy in August to deal with anything on this laptop.
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This is a satellite image taken out over the Pacific Ocean TODAY. There are a lot of opinions about what these straight line clouds are. Some people suggest that I am a conspiracy theorist for even bringing them to your attention. Now why do you suppose that showing you a satellite photo has anything to do with conspiracy theories? One thing is for sure. You will never find one shred of evidence online that these clouds have been studied by any government, or that their content has been analyzed. Now why do you suppose that is? Looks to me like these trails of something are causing the climate to change. Don't you think NASA would have complete spectrographic analysis of the trails, or that NOAA would send out boats to collect air samples. I can't even find a photo on line that shows one of these features. If there ain't no conspiracy here, someone is sure trying to make it appear that there is. Great job gov.

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Quoting HurricaneDean07:
PDO Turning Positive in the Pacific, and with El nino appearing in the EPAC... This season is gonna come to an extreme hault.

New numbers:
11-5-3

Someone needs to go check SST anomaly maps and the latest update from the CPC. :P

Seriously, if anything, the PDO has became stronger and waters in the equatorial Pacific have cooled over the past 2-3 weeks. It used to be 0.7C but is now down to 0.4C.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32802
Shell may build $10 billion gas-to-diesel process plant in Louisiana

Link

Say by to electric and solar cars for a while.
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PDO Turning Positive in the Pacific, and with El nino appearing in the EPAC... This season is gonna come to an extreme hault.

New numbers:
11-5-3
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


If i see 1 flurry snowflake ill have gotten more snow than last year
Here are two..The tube looking one is certainly interesting.
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I'll be out for now. Here's my blog entry today for those who missed it.
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting wxmod:
Pacific Ocean west of the USA today. MODIS satellite image. What are those hundreds of clouds that look man made? NASA should know, shouldn't they. The clouds are thousands of miles long and dozens of miles wide. Will NASA tell us exactly what they are made of? Come on, NASA. Don't tell me there is no one at NASA who knows what these clouds really are!



Fog = warm air over cold water
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Instability is around normal:
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Finally figured out how to post memes from my phone!!! -___-
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Quoting ncstorm:
Seriously..you guys are all doom and gloom..food prices go up and down all the time..as long as I can buy a can of ravioli for .99, Im good..
Bury my body with a ravioli covering each eye, and keep the change.
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If anyone missed it on the last blog I made a new entry of my own.

Shear is really diving off the East Coast. Things could get interesting next week...

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Hmmm...

In every one of those years mentioned in Figure #1, there were several United States tropical cyclone landfalls, some of those hurricane and major hurricanes. Lots of Caribbean trekkers and Central America hits as well. Not many re-curvers.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17793
Pacific Ocean west of the USA today. MODIS satellite image. What are those hundreds of clouds that look man made? NASA should know, shouldn't they. The clouds are thousands of miles long and dozens of miles wide. Will NASA tell us exactly what they are made of? Come on, NASA. Don't tell me there is no one at NASA who knows what these clouds really are!

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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


It takes about 90 days for water to travel the Mississipi, so when the rain stops, the river drops soon after.

ps I have a sore throat, which gives me an 80% chance of getting sick from experience, so i dont know much ill be on here for a while, and im supposed to go to DC again on Thursday so well see

nite all
Sore throat can be a sign of strep throat which sucks. Feel better GS.
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Since this a Tropical Weather blog, when will we get the next and how many storms willwe getinthenext 30 days and why?
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34. washingtonian115:-
What's going on here eh?
A line from Keepers post:-
"Farmers in both Canada and the United States have reported seeing signs of heat stress in corn yields including empty husks, burnt leaves and missing kernels."
Heat stress will become a much more disturbing issue in the near future.
Just as people dont like extremes and put on the climate control in their home the plants react the same way, the big difference is they dont have air con!
This is interesting as well from:-
40. wxchaser97
It would appear that the water temps in the great lakes are allready between 23/27 Degrees C.
Now at that some fish may soon start to die from overheating. Bearing in mind its only mid July.
So, we have heat stressed plants, pre-cooked fish and of course "the badly sited north poles ice cover" is melting away.
This is all with "just 400,PPM of CO2!
Of course, it all might just be a passing phase, a bit of adjustment and a blip caused by some badly sited temp gauges! Then again, it might not?
Member Since: January 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2177
Quoting Civicane49:



why even post that when its 3hrs old and olny updates evere 3 hrs
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115453
Hmmm...

In every one of those years mentioned in Figure #1, there were several United States tropical cyclone landfalls, some of those hurricane and major hurricanes. Lots of Caribbean trekkers and Central America hits as well. Not many re-curvers.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32802
Quoting Neapolitan:
It's interesting to note that of the top eight droughts in Figure 1, the 2012 drought is the only one to occur in the past 56 years; the others are clustered in a 25-year span in the middle of the 20th century.

Anyway, in addition to the obvious agricultural problems, there's this: the lack of winter snow and spring rain have conspired to bring the Mississippi River to hazardously low levels. The river is not at record lows yet--the worst was in 1988--but it's pretty far below normal, and could get much worse by the end of the summer if things don't turn around (though for the moment officials don't expect it to actually reach record lows). (Source). What makes this more peculiar, of course, is that the river nearly reached record high levels just a year ago....


Issues work their way all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, as well:
http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2012/07 /saltwater_wedge_moving_up_the.html

I'm back on the Mississippi River desk starting tomorrow.... my favorite.
Member Since: September 28, 2002 Posts: 5 Comments: 3316
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
even so, next late winter into next year should be the main problem
I agree with you on that, we haven't yet seen the shock that is coming through the system. I notice in the first figure in Jeff Masters' blog that the two worst Dustbowl years peaked in July and August. I hope we are not following that pattern this year.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Lol... I hated last winter so much... After the October storm there was barely anything here.
Winter wanted to make me kill myself. The most snow from 1 storm was a wopping 4 wet inches. Winter sucked last year. Hoopefully there isn't a strng el nino because that can kill winter as well (09).

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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting wxchaser97:
If I see like 15+" I've seen more snow than last winter.

Lol... I hated last winter so much... After the October storm there was barely anything here.
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Thanks Dr. Masters for this update filled with information that hopefully your readers will read and understand. 2012 is on the brink of becoming the worst drought season since the 1930s. A few weeks ago I drove across the NE corner of Louisiana and saw some very pitiful looking corn fields.

A diminished corn harvest this year will have an immediate impact on beef prices, since most of this corn is used to feed livestock. Next year promise to be warmer with the 11-year solar cycle at it's maximum, coupled with another increase in CO2 levels.

Wake Up folks

....It's Real

........It's Not a Hoax

The Planet Earth is Warming

....We Caused It

........Our Children & Grandchildren Will Pay the Price!!



Full New Yorker Article Here

The Big Heat

Corn sex is complicated. As Michael Pollan observes in "The Omnivore's Dilemma, the whole affair is so freakishly difficult it's hard to imagine how it ever evolved in the first place. Corn's female organs are sheathed in a sort of vegetable chastity belt surrounded by a tough, virtually impenetrable husk. .............

It is now corn-sex season across the Midwest, and everything is not going well. High commodity prices spurred farmers to sow more acres this year, and unseasonable warmth in March prompted many to plant corn early. Just a few months ago, the United States Department of Agriculture was projecting a record corn crop of 14.79 billion bushels. But then, in June and July, came broilingly high temperatures, combined with a persistent drought across much of the midsection of the country.

"You couldn't choreograph worse weather conditions for pollination," Fred Below, a crop biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Bloomberg News recently. "It's like farming in Hell."



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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


If i see 1 flurry snowflake ill have gotten more snow than last year
If I see like 15+" I've seen more snow than last winter.
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Quoting wxchaser97:
As long as I get more snow than last winter I'm fine.


If i see 1 flurry snowflake ill have gotten more snow than last year
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Quoting spathy:


Ravioli costs .99? Wow!
I would rather eat the can. That stuff is nasty!


LOL..in college, I lived on ravioli and noodles..delicious!
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16222
Quoting Neapolitan:
It's interesting to note that of the top eight droughts in Figure 1, the 2012 drought is the only one to occur in the past 56 years; the others are clustered in a 25-year span in the middle of the 20th century.

Anyway, in addition to the obvious agricultural problems, there's this: the lack of winter snow and spring rain have conspired to bring the Mississippi River to hazardously low levels. The river is not at record lows yet--the worst was in 1988--but it's pretty far below normal, and could get much worse by the end of the summer if things don't turn around (though for the moment officials don't expect it to actually reach record lows). (Source). What makes this more peculiar, of course, is that the river nearly reached record high levels just a year ago....


It takes about 90 days for water to travel the Mississipi, so when the rain stops, the river drops soon after.

ps I have a sore throat, which gives me an 80% chance of getting sick from experience, so i dont know much ill be on here for a while, and im supposed to go to DC again on Thursday so well see

nite all
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


even so, next late winter into next year should be the main problem
As long as I get more snow than last winter I'm fine.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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