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 StormTracker2K:


Yeah over me:/ It is absolutely insane here right now. Lighting every second and blinding rain right now.
..whew, be careful out there,and stay away from the landline phones too, if i remember right a charge could travel thru the lines if a line is hit
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


1:05 nice, a little faster and youll catch chris.
seems you are a medium distance guy.
Know a kid who went a :28 50bk at 12 to set a record and then quit to play baseball.
Dont follow.


but on a weather note, i assume the weather was nice down there?


not really. in the relay i split a 31.14 50 back... oh and i went a 27.69 in the free.

kris has the state record... 101 for a 14 year old
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Quoting FtMyersgal:


I think you are right hydrus. You wouldn't recognize it now. They have added quite a few stores
Last time I was in Fort Myers, it looked like Miami.
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590. yoboi
Quoting kwgirl:
I think it is because of all the Islands in the way, then of course CA and USA. We can't stop them, so might and well get on the wagon and predict (for me is is guessing) where the storm will go. I equate it to adult pinball. Ever play pinball? LOL I guess I am giving away my age.


yeah i once played pinball an twister at the same time...
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2334
Quoting weatherh98:


Btw you arent going to find a faster 14 and under 100M backstroker in louisiana :)


1:05 nice, a little faster and youll catch kris.
seems you are a medium distance guy.
Know a kid who went a :28 50bk at 12 to set a record and then quit to play baseball.
Dont follow.


but on a weather note, i assume the weather was nice down there?
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9725
588. CJ5
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This year's tornado season has been like the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.



The anti GW croud should parade this chart. When the trend was different earlier in the year it was a focus point for the pro GW crowd. Just saying.
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Typically Georgia and Gulf states depend on landfall from TS and greater to reach average yearly rainfall. Landfall storms don't mean only disaster, they can be very beneficial. And of coarse we are more excited by Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf storms. They are potentially dangerous, impact is in many of our bloggers back yards, and they cause a frenzy of conversation about said storm. Hopefully no one roots for a horrible cane, but we don't choose where Mothernature sends em. It's okay to get excited about "The Big One", love the science and nature of the beast, hate what it does to the public.
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Quoting LargoFl:
...some dangerous lightning out there, be careful folks


Yeah over me:/ It is absolutely insane here right now. Lighting every second and blinding rain right now.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
HEY..they woke up Finally...................................SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE FOR WS 488
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1250 PM EDT TUE JUL 17 2012

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH 488 IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 800 PM EDT
FOR THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS

FLC013-029-037-039-045-047-063-065-067-073-077-07 9-121-123-129-
180000-
/O.NEW.KWNS.SV.A.0488.120717T1650Z-120718T0000Z/

FL
. FLORIDA COUNTIES INCLUDED ARE

CALHOUN DIXIE FRANKLIN
GADSDEN GULF HAMILTON
JACKSON JEFFERSON LAFAYETTE
LEON LIBERTY MADISON
SUWANNEE TAYLOR WAKULLA
$$
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Quoting yoboi:
why do more people get off with an atl storm than a pac storm???? is it weather ya want to see or loss of life and destruction???
I think it is because of all the Islands in the way, then of course CA and USA. We can't stop them, so might and well get on the wagon and predict (for me is is guessing) where the storm will go. I equate it to adult pinball. Ever play pinball? LOL I guess I am giving away my age.
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Quoting weatherh98:


Btw you arent going to find a faster 14 and under 100M backstroker in louisiana :)


1:05.93 seconds
i split a 32.85 going down and a 33.08 coming back. Th kid next to me went out in a 31.58 came back in a 34.77 it was way cool to race.
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582. yoboi
Quoting muddertracker:


Nice!

It has rained four out of seven days in Cedar Park! In July! Wonderful things happen when a gigantic H isn't parked over your state!


i have had rain everyday going on 2 weeks now.....
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2334
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...some dangerous lightning out there, be careful folks
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


i kno the feeling all too well.


I also made the zone team. Going to DALLAS!!!
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Quoting yoboi:
why do more people get off with an atl storm than a pac storm???? is it weather ya want to see or loss of life and destruction???
..that is a good question, me i'd like nothing better than to see no hurricanes form at all, but then in a way they serve a purpose, taking heat OUT of the oceans and giving lots of rain wherever they go..the destructive parts one must overlook
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Quoting jeffs713:
15. Beer is an effective social lubricant, fostering social interaction.


It also makes me look hot to others
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Quoting weatherh98:


I was to tired to get the computer and or my phone


i kno the feeling all too well.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9725
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


Harrison, good to see ya, why werent you back yesterday?


Btw you arent going to find a faster 14 and under 100M backstroker in louisiana :)
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Quoting hydrus:
I remember when the Bell Tower was built. Late 70,s I believe.


I think you are right hydrus. You wouldn't recognize it now. They have added quite a few stores
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Quoting yoboi:
why do more people get off with an atl storm than a pac storm???? is it weather ya want to see or loss of life and destruction???


Im not even going to front..I dont want to see anyone lose their property or anyone experience loss of life but there is an adrenalin rush for me personally when there is an approaching storm and yes I have experienced MANY hurricanes and have lost property behind it..its nature, there's nothing you can do about it..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15088
Quoting yoboi:


i thought that is why the invented the light switch..


Nice!

It has rained four out of seven days in Cedar Park! In July! Wonderful things happen when a gigantic H isn't parked over your state!
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Quoting weatherbro:
This season will be like 2006 hands down!


2006:



2012:



...Yeah...not seeing it.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
We will have at least a couple of potent hurricanes eventually. It's inevitable, even in El Nino years. We just have to hope we can remain lucky, with steering currents taking those hurricanes out to sea. The law of averages will win out eventually, though.
To add to this wind shear will certainly play apart once storms get cranking. The first place to look for changes is the Eastern Caribbean. I like to use storms like Erika and Chris as examples, storms that were forecasted to strengthen into hurricanes only to get ripped apart by shear.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


Harrison, good to see ya, why werent you back yesterday?


I was to tired to get the computer and or my phone
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Quoting spathy:


Hi FMG :O)

Some spectacular window rumbling lightning huh.
I got 2.75" yesterday. My new Buffalo grass is nice and green now.


Good to see you too spathy.
LOL means with all this rain it will grow fast and the mower will work overtime. BTW the orchids are not looking too good. Not sure if MrFM over or under watered them... (:
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Quoting weatherh98:
good afternoon folks.. Good to be back:)


Harrison, good to see ya, why werent you back yesterday?
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9725
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Quoting weatherbro:
This season will be like 2006 hands down!
Yeah the SAL is quite similar. 2002 is a good analog as well in terms of the thinking of the steering currents which show more of an east to west steering as opposed to recurvatures.
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good afternoon folks.. Good to be back:)
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Quoting spathy:


Ditto that.
Normal late afternoon storms are the best.
Not to mention we will soon be running out of the weeks left in the rainy season.
What 9 weeks left?


Yeah, and then probably back to being dry, but if El Nino decides to stick around through the winter maybe not....
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562. yoboi
why do more people get off with an atl storm than a pac storm???? is it weather ya want to see or loss of life and destruction???
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2334
Quoting charlottefl:
Had to do it guys (not directed at anyone, just thought I would inject some humor into the conversation):

god, he's ugly!
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We will have at least a couple of potent hurricanes eventually. It's inevitable, even in El Nino years. We just have to hope we can remain lucky, with steering currents taking those hurricanes out to sea. The law of averages will win out eventually, though.
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Quoting spathy:
There has to be some locally heavy rainfall totals in Florida over the past 48 hrs.
Any More Floridians got some more totals to share?


We've been doing pretty good lately, but yesterday it was .05" and today it's .01" so far, not so sure I like that pattern. We can go back to how it was earlier this week :0)
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This season will be like 2006 hands down!
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556. ARiot
TN Valley should be interesting again this afternoon through Thursday at least. Just Severe T-Storm chances. Didn't hear any Tornadic predictions and don't think conditions favor them right now.

Very hot, very humid air covering a large area. Not much mixing going on. (Probably a good thing.)

In N. Alabama, we got another 1" on top of the nearly 5" from the drought-busting low that stalled out last week. (Sadly some parts just east of me are still technically in drought. It's a county by county thing since much of the recent showers were isolated.)

Stay safe.
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Good afternoon. It's just hot here.


Fair
88°F
31°C
Humidity62%
Wind SpeedCalm
Barometer30.01 in
Dewpoint73°F (23°C)
Visibility10.00 mi
Heat Index96°F (36°C)

Cliff Clavin's Buffalo Theory (on beer) ;-)
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Quoting MississippiWx:


The area it covers is where the significance exists, however. We don't have half the heat in the Atlantic as we've had the past couple of years. Less heat means less heat to take away via tropical cyclones. In essence, we have fewer tropical cyclones. An oncoming El Nino possibility does not help matters either. El Nino or not, this looks like an average season unless something drastically changes.

2011:



2012:

ill have to disagree with you my friend. if wind shear is favorable throughout the atlantic during august and september, what we will see is instead of storms forming south or south west of the cape verde islands, they will form about 100 miles east of the leeward islands. the waters will continue to warm throughout the summer and if something gets in the gulf and shear and dry air is non existent then there will be a BIG problem and thats why i see this season slightly above average 12-15 storms
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551. yoboi
Quoting muddertracker:


Beer has been helping ugly people get some "attention" for centuries...


i thought that is why the invented the light switch..
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2334
Quoting FtMyersgal:


Hi spathy. I work near the Bell Tower. We'd had probably .10 inch of rain this morning. I got 3.86 inches at home last night
I remember when the Bell Tower was built. Late 70,s I believe.
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As much as we are hyping over the potential for a storm or storms to form along the front that move off of the east coast next week, I am not buying it. The latest GFS run only forms one low, and it is completely frontal in nature...



Click for loop
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Below average.


that part is true.
I was looking too deeply, past the obvious, at HOW it ended up below average.
All of 2009s storms came late in the season, and all of 2012s tornadoes came early, so i missed the similarity.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9725
Quoting jeffs713:

Correct. I wasn't trying to encourage anyone to drink - but I was also trying to encourage an open mind in the future.
Beer: The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
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wow guys the TCHP is very high compaired to almost every year from 2005-2011 in the caribbean more so in the W caribbean

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Quoting muddertracker:


Beer has been helping ugly people get some "attention" for centuries...


yeah, but, usually attention by other ugly people, lol. If you can't get a "9" or a "10" sober, chances are pretty good you're not getting either of those through drinking. However, I'm sure the old adage still applies though...."at 10 (pm) shes a 2, and at 2 (am) she's a 10...lol.
Member Since: August 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 50

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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.