NOAA report unable to pinpoint causes of the historic 2012 U.S. drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:27 PM GMT on April 12, 2013

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The extreme 2012 drought in the Central Great Plains of the U.S. was more intense than any drought since record keeping began in 1895, says a new NOAA assessment of the historic drought, released Thursday. However, the study was unable to pinpoint the cause of the drought. Other major global droughts in recent years have been linked to global warming and/or natural variation in patterns of sea surface temperatures, but these factors were seemingly not important in causing the drought of 2012, said the team of 19 atmospheric scientists, led by Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections Program (MAPP). Their study attributed the drought to a random natural variation in the jet stream, which caused it to become "stuck" far to the north in Canada. Since rain-bearing low pressure systems travel along the jet stream, the northwards displacement of the jet stream resulted in abnormally dry conditions over the Central U.S. "This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said Hoerling.



Key findings of the report
The researchers focused on a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa, and found that the amount of precipitation in 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average. This was the driest year since record keeping began in 1895, surpassing the previous record driest years of 1934 and 1936, during the great Dust Bowl drought.

The researchers called the 2012 drought a "flash drought"--it developed suddenly in May, and was unrelated to the 2011 drought over Texas and surrounding states. The 2011 drought had a separate and well-understood trigger (a change in the jet stream and storm tracks, due to a La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific.)

The 2012 drought was not predicted by long-range weather forecast models. The new report concluded that our ability to predict drought is limited, but some new experimental techniques could improve future drought forecasts. For example, NOAA's long-range GFDL forecast model and the European EUROSIP model correctly anticipated the summer 2012 heat and dryness over the Central U.S. in projections made as early as January 2012.


Figure 1. Drought-damaged corn in a field near Nickerson, Nebraska, Aug. 16, 2012. The great U.S. drought of 2012 was the most extensive U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Over a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa--precipitation during 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average., making it the driest year since record keeping began in 1895. Damage from the 2012 drought is at least $35 billion, and probably much higher. The associated heat wave killed 123 people, and brought the U.S. its second hottest summer on record. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Criticism of the report
Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was critical of the report's conclusions. In comments posted in Joe Romm's blog at climateprogress.org, Dr. Trenberth said that the study failed to "say anything about the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the winter prior to the event in spite of the fact that snow pack was at record low levels in the winter and spring" and "no attempt was made to include soil moisture, snow cover anomalies, or vegetation health" in the climate model runs performed.

I would have liked to have seen the paper mention the growing body of research that has linked unusually early May snow melt in the Northern Hemisphere and Arctic sea ice loss in recent years to unusual summertime jet stream patterns, like the jet stream pattern observed during 2012. A March 2013 paper by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany found that under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. This causes the jet stream pattern to freeze in place and amplify, leading to months-long periods of weather extremes. They showed that warming of the Arctic due to human-caused climate change might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years. One of the more extreme examples of this resonance occurred during the summer of 2012, and could have been the cause of the 2012 drought.

Other blogs on the report
Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue by Joe Romm at climateprogress.org

Global Warming Not Significant in 2012 Drought: Report by Andrew Freedman of climatecentral.org

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I was in West Palm Beach. In my location, we probally received around an inch of rain during one bad storm. South of us got pounded.
yeah earlier they were really concerned about flooding, radar doesnt look too bad right now..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38521
man i went to that ribfest several years ago, geez if you like BBQ ribs..THIS is the event to get to..they come from all over the world to eat there..some great music and fun there too..wonder how tomorrow will be weather wise ...
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Quoting LargoFl:
Hiya GeoffreyWPB...did you folks down there actually GET..the possible 3 inches an hour rains today?


I was in West Palm Beach. In my location, we probally received around an inch of rain during one bad storm. South of us got pounded.
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anyone going to the RibFest in Manatee cty tomorrow?..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38521
yes a repeat next weekend?..............
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38521
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The latest run of the GFS is much more bullish regarding next week's trough...100 knots at 500 millibars. It's also a lot less positively tilted. Something to watch.

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Hiya GeoffreyWPB...did you folks down there actually GET..the possible 3 inches an hour rains today?
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38521
THE HEAVIEST RAINS OF THE PERIOD HOWEVER ARE EXPECTED TO FALL
ALONG THE GULF COAST FROM SOUTHERN LOUISIANA TO NORTH FLORIDA AS A
LINGERING FRONTAL BOUNDARY AND COINCIDING AXIS OF DEEP TROPICAL
MOISTURE SURGE NORTHWARD AHEAD OF AN UPPER DISTURBANCE MOVING
ACROSS NORTHERN MEXICO AND SOUTHERN TEXAS TONIGHT. HEAVY RAINS
DEVELOPING ALONG THE LOUISIANA COAST THIS EVENING ARE FORECAST TO
SHIFT EAST-NORTHEASTWARD ALONG THE COAST...SPREADING ACROSS
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI..ALABAMA..THE FLORIDA PANHANDLE AND SOUTH
GEORGIA TOMORROW. RAINS MAY BEGIN TO SPREAD NORTHWARD ALONG THE
GEORGIA TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA COASTS AS A SURFACE LOW BEGINS TO
SPIN UP ALONG THE SOUTHEAST COAST MONDAY MORNING.
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Atlantic tropics are anomalously cold relative to the global tropics.

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Miami NWS Disco

Interesting read...


THE REST OF NEXT WEEK FEATURES A RIDGE ACROSS THE SOUTHEASTERN
UNITED STATES SO WE EXPECT A CONTINUATION OF A VERY WARM AND HUMID
PATTERN WITH ISOLATED TSTORMS EXPECTED EACH AFTERNOON. ABOVE
AVERAGE TEMPS WILL CONTINUE. BOTH GFS AND ECMWF DO SHOW A HIGHLY
AMPLIFIED LONG WAVE TROUGH SWEEPING ACROSS THE EASTERN CONUS BY
APRIL 22ND. THEY ARE ACTUALLY IN GOOD AGREEMENT ON THIS FOR SO FAR
OUT IN TIME. SHOULD THIS TREND CONTINUE, THEN IT WOULD
POTENTIALLY BE STORMY AHEAD OF THIS TROUGH FOR NEXT WEEKEND WITH
A MUCH LESS HUMID AND REFRESHING AIRMASS TO BEGIN THE FOLLOWING
WEEK. A LONG WAYS OFF, BUT THERE IS A SIGNAL OF A FEW COOLER DAYS
LEFT BEFORE WE BEGIN OUR LONG, HUMID RAINY SEASON. FOR NOW DID NOT
CHANGE THE EXTENDED FORECAST, BUT POPS MAY NEED TO BE INCREASED
FOR NEXT WEEKEND SHOULD THIS MODEL TREND CONTINUE.
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now its Monday................
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 38521
now its Sunday evening..boom........
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watch that green blob by Texas gulf coast states,this is Saturday..
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I think Sandy was a Category 3 hurricane that developed from a monsoonal area of disturbed weather in the SW Caribbean.


Or was it...?

Dun dun dun!

Anyways. It's been awhile since I have heard thunder around these parts (North Miami). Stormy morning.
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SST anomalies in the MDR (60-15W) have leveled off at an above average anomaly despite anomalously strong trade winds. This is interesting to me because one would expect below average SSTs with stronger than average tradewinds. Must be the background AMO phase giving us the extra warmth. Or extra sunlight (i.e. OLR anomaly). Or maybe GW to a slight extent.


Trade winds above average this last week




SST anomalies leveling off above average


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Quoting bappit:
Actually, TWC goofed up all there winter storm names. Sandy was a winter storm and should have claimed the first moniker on the list.


I think Sandy was a Category 3 hurricane that developed from a monsoonal area of disturbed weather in the SW Caribbean.
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Quoting goosegirl1:


My mom was a teenager at the time, and remembers extreme wind and rain, and a short-lived tornado on the top of Twin Mountain in eastern WV, about 100 miles west of DC near the Allegheny Front. It made a big impression on her.

edit: she remembers the roof blowing off a large apple packing shed and a home due to the tornado.


another edit: I checked the latitude and longitude of Twin Mountain against the WU map of Hurricane Hazel, and found that by the time the storm reached that area, it had transitioned to an extra-tropical storm but was still packing 80-90 mph winds. Pretty impressive for an area that far inland.

That would give me a wild hydrenaline rush. We very rarely get winds like that in my area. Once I get my drivers license, I would love to start chasing any hurricane that comes to the US coast line. I cannot wait!
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Hey Keeper,

Is that a 68 in your forecast? Must be a typo!!!
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00Z

6Z

12Z
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Just Thursday's and the Adairsville one.
I believe Adairsville got hit last month also... Not a good few months for Bartow county.
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Loop

30% chance of rain on Monday...
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Quoting Luisport:
M 4.2 - HAWAII REGION, HAWAII - 2013-04-13 20:45:22 UTC Link
Upgraded to M4.4
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It doesn't matter if the dipole shifts far enough north, as forecast.
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


NAO is forecast by GFS/ECMWF to be positive at least for the next two weeks. See post #312.


Just looking at 10-meter GFS maps shows that the pressure gradient is fairly relaxed in the MDR/Eastern Atlantic throughout the run. Pressures are also fairly low at sub-1014mb. Not sure if the MDR will be able to recover to the record pace it was on before the cooling, but it should be able to warm-up again.
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M 4.2 - HAWAII REGION, HAWAII - 2013-04-13 20:45:22 UTC Link
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Quoting SPLbeater:


Thats what happens when your motive is to expand an audience..naming storms that NORMALLY occur up north. Aint like its somethin special, so IMO it dont deserve a shoutout...

Stupid TWC. Or should I say, the weather section of NBC.

When only 2 of the 16 top stories on a site called Weather.com are about the weather, you know something is wrong.

Today has stayed in the low 40s and I've had showers of rain, snow, and sleet. I can't wait for warm temperatures next week.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7942
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
This winter season looks like the 2005 hurricane season...
two names left on TWC list...

see post #300 to see what happened.... (not even bothering to write it again, yet I did to write this... very tired of winter)


Thats what happens when your motive is to expand an audience..naming storms that NORMALLY occur up north. Aint like its somethin special, so IMO it dont deserve a shoutout...

Stupid TWC. Or should I say, the weather section of NBC.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


NAO is forecast by GFS/ECMWF to be positive at least for the next two weeks. See post #312.

It doesn't matter if the dipole shifts far enough north, as forecast.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
MDR sea surface temperature anomalies have flatlined over the past few days. With a reduction in trade winds likely over the coming days, waters should slowly start to warm again.



Negative PDO is coming back...



and Nino region 1+2 continues to spaz out...



NAO is forecast by GFS/ECMWF to be positive at least for the next two weeks. See post #312.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


2 ef 3?s which ones...? i remember more.

adairsville, the one on thursday, and i believe on in arkansas?

Just Thursday's and the Adairsville one.
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311. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Seychelles Meteorological Services
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #32
FORTE TEMPETE TROPICALE IMELDA (10-20122013)
22:00 PM RET April 13 2013
======================================

At 18:00 PM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Imelda (985 hPa) located at 16.9S 59.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 50 knots with gusts of 70 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving south at 3 knots.

Storm Force Winds
=================
40 NM in the southwestern quadrant, up to 50 NM in the southeastern quadrant, and up to 60 NM in the northeastern quadrant

Gale Force Winds
===================
50 NM radius from the center, extending up to 90 NM in the southwestern quadrant, and up to 105 NM in the eastern semi-circle

Near Gale Force Winds
====================
140 NM radius from the center, extending up to 150 NM in the northeastern quadrant, up to 180 NM in the southwestern quadrant, and up to 185 NM in the southeastern quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T3.5/3.5/D2.0/24 HRS

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 17.6S 59.1E - 55 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
24 HRS: 18.6S 59.7E - 50 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
48 HRS: 20.6S 61.2E - 35 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modérée
72 HRS: 21.7S 61.1E - 25 knots (Depression se Comblant)

Additional Information
=========================
Saint Brandon, which is located near the rmw in the northeastern quadrant (the most active area currently) reports 10 min mean winds at 40 kt since 1600 UTC with gusts at 85 knots (157 km/h) at 17z. Min pressure so far was recorded at 13z with 990 hPa (non corrected from the atmospheric tide). At 1800 UTC, 992 hPa is reported. Latest highest Dvorak estimates supports the current intensity (ADT at 52 knots 10 min winds at 1800 UTC) ... Even if gusts recorded at Saint Brandon would support 60 knots ...

ASCAT pass at 1800 UTC was useful to localize the center.

System lies under an upper tropospheric ridge with weak vertical wind shear and good upper level divergence (cf. water vapor imagery). Over the past six hours, Imelda has tracked slowly southwards, under the steering influence of a mid-tropospheric ridge in its northeast.

For the next 60 hours system is expected to track globally south to south southeastwards under the steering influence of the aforementioned ridge. On this track, within the next 12-18 hours, upper levels conditions should remain favorable. Consequently the system may intensify during the next 18-24 hours. However, forecast of intensity remain uncertain because of the dry air in the system environment.

On and after 24 hours, the vertical wind shear is forecast to increase ahead an upper levels trough and system should weaken.

On and after Tuesday, the filling up system is expected to track globally westwards steered by the trade-winds flow.

Given the current trend in intensity, all interests in the Mascaregnes islands should monitor the progress of this system ... particularly interests of Rodrigues Island (latest track forecast from ECMWF at 1200 UTC is even further east than the current track forecast)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
So far this tornado season, 139 twisters have touched down across the United States. A total of 183 were reported (not confirmed, many reports sometimes come from one tornado), which is well below the average of 349.

There have been 59 EF0s, 58 EF1s, 19 EF2s, 2 EF3s, and an EF4.


2 ef 3?s which ones...? i remember more.

adairsville, the one on thursday, and i believe on in arkansas?
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Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
So far this tornado season, 139 twisters have touched down across the United States. A total of 183 were reported (not confirmed, many reports sometimes come from one tornado), which is well below the average of 349.

There have been 59 EF0s, 58 EF1s, 19 EF2s, 2 EF3s, and an EF4.


Even during a slow season, the only EF4 hit a large population area (Hattiesburg). Just like in hurricane season, all it takes is one in the right location. Unfortunate that we've had a couple of deaths from tornadoes so far, but it's great that the number has been limited.
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Quoting bappit:
Actually, TWC goofed up all there winter storm names. Sandy was a winter storm and should have claimed the first moniker on the list.



Sandy was not a winter storm and TWC did not goofed up Sandy was a hurricane but i think there was other storm overe the area at the time and Sandy this had too mix in too that
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So far this tornado season, 139 twisters have touched down across the United States. A total of 183 were reported (not confirmed, many reports sometimes come from one tornado), which is well below the average of 349.

There have been 59 EF0s, 58 EF1s, 19 EF2s, 2 EF3s, and an EF4.
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Actually, TWC goofed up all there winter storm names. Sandy was a winter storm and should have claimed the first moniker on the list.
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this happened in Indonesia



BALI, Indonesia -- All 108 passengers and crew survived after a new Lion Air jet crashed into the ocean and snapped into two while attempting to land Saturday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, injuring up to 45 people.
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Another storm with some mammatus over Andros!

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This winter season looks like the 2005 hurricane season...
two names left on TWC list...

see post #300 to see what happened.... (not even bothering to write it again, yet I did to write this... very tired of winter)
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Winter Storm Xerxes has been named by The Weather Channel, courtesy of the winter that just keeps giving. Even when we don't want it to.
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In other topic...

The aurora forecast activity is high (5) for today... many northern States will be able to see the "aurorae boreales" tonight, if weather permits...

I wish I could see them at least one time in my life...



Forecast: Auroral activity will be high. Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Igaluit to Juneau, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sept-Iles, and visible low on the horizon from Seattle, Des Moines, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Halifax.

Forecaster Comments: A solar event on April 11, 2013 was facing Earth and should increase auroral activity for 24 to 48 hours after the arrival of the shock front, expected on the 12th or early on the 13th GMT.

Still in high level (4), tomorrow. A little lower
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
MDR sea surface temperature anomalies have flatlined over the past few days. With a reduction in trade winds likely over the coming days, waters should slowly start to warm again.



Negative PDO is coming back...



and Nino region 1+2 continues to spaz out...

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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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