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 Neapolitan:
Lesson #1: All you need to know about this forum to understand some of the people here.

This forum for the past three weeks:

"I'm bored. We need an invest."
"This place is slow. We need an invest."
"We need an invest. What is the NHC waiting for?"
"When are we going to get an invest? We need an invest."
"I would really love to track a single little invest, even one that has no chance. We need an invest ASAP."
"I can't stand summer! We need an invest!"
"Things need to pick up before El Nino arrives. We need an invest now!"
"We really need an invest."
"We need an invest."
"We need an invest."
"We need an invest..."
"What's wrong with the folks at the NHC??!?"

This forum since 91L was declared a few hours ago:

"The NHC numbered that?!"
"Wait--that's an invest?"
"Is this a joke? Why would the NHC call that an invest?"
"That invest has no chance. Why did the NHC give it a number?"
"What's wrong with the folks at the NHC??!?"

;-)


Thanks for putting it in perspective, Nea -- It was a hard day and your post was perfect for making me laugh outloud at how silly we can all be sometimes!
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I personally think 10 more...
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High,
I just saw this and as I'm not a consumer or a victim or even in the relevant continent I thought you might like to chew on it! Something to do with power problems.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48215452#.UAXKtfV_Ksc

Apparently the electric company who supply the New York area have been experiencing some difficulties with abnormal weather and heat problems. Not my cup of tea, or coffee as I'm not a subscriber, being only reliant on the solar panels on the roof but if they cant keep their act together in 90+F what are they going to do if it gets Hot?

I sort of noticed that a lot of the central GOM water seems to be in the 90/F range at the moment and to say the least this must be interesting!
I wonder what the fish think of all this?
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From:About.com weather.

Answer: Ocean Temperatures in the 1930's Were Unstable
Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center recently used a computer model and satellite data to examine climate over the past century. In the study, cooler than normal tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures and warmer than normal tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures created ideal drought conditions due to the unstable sea surface temperatures. The result was dry air and high temperatures in the Midwest from about 1931 to 1939.

The Normal Supply of Moist Air From the Gulf of Mexico Was Reduced.

Changes in sea surface temperatures create shifts in weather patterns. One way is by changing the patterns in the jet stream. In the 1930's, the jet stream was weakened causing the normally moisture rich air from the Gulf of Mexico to become drier. Low level winds further reduced the normal supply of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and reduced rainfall throughout the US Midwest.

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890. ackee
How much more storms do u think will develop for the rest of the seasons ?
A 10
B 7
C 6
D 5
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Quoting jrweatherman:
I have to ask. Did humans releasing CO2 into the air cause the extreme droughts in the '30s and '50s?


If you are really interested, here is an article for you. Humans probably did exacerbate it by plowing millions of acres of prairie grass and nothing to hold the soil and moisture.

Link
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Quoting Civicane49:


The Georgia low looks amazing. It's got good outflow on all sides. The only issue is the center is mostly over land, and there's still no sign of a surface low.

It hit 100+ in many spots in New York state today. that's very rare.
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We can't even get a near zero yellow circle.
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I have to ask. Did humans releasing CO2 into the air cause the extreme droughts in the '30s and '50s?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I am officially bored.

You young people need to have some Patience it's only July 17. Wait August Sept. will be here soon. I think some on this blog want be happy if we don't have 3 ( cat3) or above Hurricanes at one time!!!
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I hope T..A..wx13 is bored on this blog for a long time ... I like the boredom ... from the FL Keys.
:>)
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Here comes the sea breeze:
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Politics then TA13? :) Lot more drought and fire to discuss than tropical weather. Never easy for a tropical weather and climate blog. How good at trig and calculus does one have to be to me a meteorologist? My mother used to teach both at Purdue. Needless to say she didn't pass that side of the brain along to me. History and political science more my speed.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I am officially bored.

we can atleast use an invest right now or a old front tropical storm like bret and cindy last year
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I am officially bored.

lmaooo
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I am officially bored.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
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Khanun:

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
872. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #26
SEVERE TROPICAL STORM KHANUN (1207)
6:00 AM JST July 18 2012
=====================================

SUBJECT: Category Two Typhoon In East China Sea

At 21:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Khanun (985 hPa) located at 28.9N 127.1E has 10 minute sustained winds of 50 knots with gusts of 70 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving northwest at 12 knots.

Dvorak Intensity: T3.0

Gale Force Winds
===================
210 NM from the center in northeast quadrant
120 NM from the center in southwest quadrant

Forecast and Intensity
=========================

24 HRS: 35.5N 125.2E - 40 knots (Tropical Storm/CAT 1) - Yellow Sea
45 HRS: 40.4N 126.5E - Tropical Depression overland Korean Peninsula
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Amazing man made weather modification shown yesterday by one of our fine bloggers got virtually no attention. Talking about what was shown over the Pacific here yesterday. Few pluses, no conversation. Government says, thanks. In Russia couple days ago cloud seeding went wrong over Moscow. They've been seeding clouds with fine cement for over twenty years now to keep fine weather over Moscow. One of the bags didn't get pulverized and fell through a residents home. The science of weather modification has come a long way in the last forty years. Covering it up from the public has come a long way in that time too. Too much IQ here for this subject to be so mute.
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 123 Comments: 7887
Quoting GTcooliebai:
I could be wrong and the system stays attached to the front or spits out little areas of low pressure along it, and nothing develops, or stays extratropical. Looks like I will be wrong with development off the coast of Africa later this week and into next week as the SAL is still pushing off strong episodes of African Dust and that High over the Azores continues to hold firm.
But if the system does detach a sub tropical transitioning to a tropical event isn't out of the question.I think we've seen so many ditachments from fronts this year that all of the regulars are almost experts.Lol.
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Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 123 Comments: 7887
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Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Quoting mitthbevnuruodo:


Well, one managed to make it all the way up across Baja to hit Ca and Arizona, still as a TS sometime in the 90's...so reckon it could happen during a strong El Nino. I know not the same as a Ca landfall via ocean than via Baja. I think it'd have to be a massive storm and strong El Nino to make it all the way to Ca on the water being the waters are so cool

It would need a strong El Nino and warm PDO.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Yep.Sst off of the east coast are approaching 90 in the gulf stream.
I could be wrong and the system stays attached to the front or spits out little areas of low pressure along it, and nothing develops, or stays extratropical. Looks like I will be wrong with development off the coast of Africa later this week and into next week as the SAL is still pushing off strong episodes of African Dust and that High over the Azores continues to hold firm.
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Remnant of Emilia located southeast of Hawaii.

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Quoting GTcooliebai:
I think if it is anything the system will start out subtropical and transition to tropical due to the fact of the warm sst anomolies in the North Atlantic.
Yep.Sst off of the east coast are approaching 90 in the gulf stream.
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Quoting Tribucanes:
Daniel the prophet told of a "world-wide web" that would come before the end. Not trying to push religion, just saying this was a pretty good call on his part. Computers make us far less intellectual and far more selfish and less able to communicate. Too bad the universal message is, computers make us more important and smarter. US test scores tells us which one is accurate. Fifty years ago we still had families in America too, that didn't hurt any.


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52262
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


I would like to see a Tropical Storm hit Southern California in my lifetime. Could happen in a strong El Nino year. I think the highest ocean water temps I've see off Southern California have been mid 70's.


Well, one managed to make it all the way up across Baja to hit Ca and Arizona, still as a TS sometime in the 90's...so reckon it could happen during a strong El Nino. I know not the same as a Ca landfall via ocean than via Baja. I think it'd have to be a massive storm and strong El Nino to make it all the way to Ca on the water being the waters are so cool
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Not sure where you saw that?
those are my anologues but ckick on the link
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805. It makes my head hurt.
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Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 123 Comments: 7887
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
The chances of seeing Ernesto off an East Coast trough split seem to be dwindling, not that they were ever that high... Here are phase analysis maps from the 0z GFS on three lows it forms...





I think if it is anything the system will start out subtropical and transition to tropical due to the fact of the warm sst anomolies in the North Atlantic.
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Quoting windshear1993:
ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions
Update prepared by
Climate Prediction Center / NCEP 16 July Link guys it looks like we may get lucky this year becuase the new anologues are 1977 1994 and 2006 and 1977 had anita of course but every year is different always keep guard up bc out of those three years its a 1/3 chance of one bad storm

Not sure where you saw that?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
1976 is also a new anologue
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Lesson #1: All you need to know about this forum to understand some of the people here.

This forum for the past three weeks:

"I'm bored. We need an invest."
"This place is slow. We need an invest."
"We need an invest. What is the NHC waiting for?"
"When are we going to get an invest? We need an invest."
"I would really love to track a single little invest, even one that has no chance. We need an invest ASAP."
"I can't stand summer! We need an invest!"
"Things need to pick up before El Nino arrives. We need an invest now!"
"We really need an invest."
"We need an invest."
"We need an invest."
"We need an invest..."
"What's wrong with the folks at the NHC??!?"

This forum since 91L was declared a few hours ago:

"The NHC numbered that?!"
"Wait--that's an invest?"
"Is this a joke? Why would the NHC call that an invest?"
"That invest has no chance. Why did the NHC give it a number?"
"What's wrong with the folks at the NHC??!?"

;-)
see i told you this site would become vanilla once TWC bought it
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West Pacific TS Khanun:

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions
Update prepared by
Climate Prediction Center / NCEP 16 July Link guys it looks like we may get lucky this year becuase the new anologues are 1977 1994 and 2006 and 1977 had anita of course but every year is different always keep guard up bc out of those three years its a 1/3 chance of one bad storm
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DETROIT (WXYZ) -
An Excessive Heat Warning has been issued for all of southeastern Michigan until 11:00 p.m. tonight.


Blistering heat is on store this afternoon, with high temperatures topping 100 degrees. The high humidity level will make it feel as bad as 110. This is dangerous heat and precautions should be taken to limit exposure to the extreme temperatures. Any significant relief won't get here until Thursday.


Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 123 Comments: 7887
Drove out by my farm last night, ground that way not the gumbo around town to north and west, some early corn looked ok, but some had tassels and no ears, others minimal ears that doubt make 50 bushels/acre. The 200 bu stuff in the gumbo might do ok but won't make usual yields, lucky if get 150, some more like 120. Pastures dead now, fortunately some got pretty good 1st and decent 2nd cuts for hay, but having to feed that now. Imagine a lot of that corn will just be baled as well. Beans for most part ok, if get some rain in next week or two, but was saying that about corn 2 wks ago. My yard has only crabgrass and weeds green, little .05" shower Sat nite did nothing for it. We're east of I-55/north of I-70 in S C IL.
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Fabio:

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056

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About JeffMasters

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