Extreme Drought to Flood in Georgia: Weather Whiplash Strikes Again

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:57 PM GMT on May 06, 2013

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The remarkable storm that brought record-breaking May snows and cold to the Midwest last week continues to spin over the Southeast U.S. The storm is unleashing flooding rains, bringing a case of "Weather Whiplash" to Georgia: flooding where extreme drought had existed just a few months ago. The storm formed when a loop in the jet stream of extreme amplitude got cut off from the main flow of the jet over the weekend, forming a "cutoff low" that is now slowly spinning down as it drifts east over the Southeast U.S. On Sunday, the storm dumped 3.4" of rain on Atlanta, Georgia--that city's sixth heaviest May calendar day rain storm since record keeping began in 1878. Remarkably, the rains were also able to bring rivers in Central Georgia above flood stage. This portion of the country was in "exceptional drought"--the worst category of drought--at the beginning of 2013.


Figure 1. The record May snowstorm that hit the Midwest U.S. on May 1 - 3, 2013, got cut off from the jet stream and was seen spinning over the Southeast U.S. on Sunday, May 5, in this image from NASA's MODIS instrument. The 3.4" of rain that fell on Atlanta, Georgia on May 5 was that city's sixth heaviest May calendar day rainfall since record keeping began in 1878.

Weather Whiplash
Weather Whiplash--a term originally coined by science writer Andrew Freedman of climatecentral.org to describe extreme shifts between cold and hot weather--is also a excellent phrase we can use to describe some of the rapid transitions between extreme drought and floods seen in recent years. I brought up a remarkable example in mid-April, when a 200-mile stretch of the Mississippi River north of St. Louis reached damaging major flood levels less than four months after near-record low water levels restricted barge traffic, forcing the Army Corp to blast out rocks from the river bottom to enable navigation. As the climate warms, the new normal in coming decades is going to be more and more extreme "Weather Whiplash" drought-flood cycles like we have seen in the Midwest and in Georgia this year. A warmer atmosphere is capable of bringing heavier downpours, since warmer air can hold more water vapor. But you still need a low pressure system to come along and wring that moisture out of the air to get rain. When natural fluctuations in jet stream patterns take storms away from a region, creating a drought, the extra water vapor in the air won't do you any good. There will be no mechanism to lift the moisture, condense it, and generate drought-busting rains. The drought that ensues will be more intense, since temperatures will be hotter and the soil will dry out more.


Figure 2. Weather Whiplash in Georgia, 2013: the center of the state was in exceptional drought as the beginning of the year, but heavy rains in February, March, and April busted the drought. Heavy May rains have now brought flooding. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Weather Whiplash in the Southeast U.S. more likely due to an intensification of the Bermuda High
This year's "Weather Whiplash" in Georgia is the second time in the past decade the state has gone from exceptional drought to flood. In September 2007, Atlanta, Georgia was in the midst of a 1-in-100 year drought, and was just weeks away from running out of water. Yet just two years later, the drought had been busted, and a phenomenal 1-in-500 year flood ripped through the city, killing ten and causing $500 million in damage. According to a 2011 study by a Duke University-led team of climate scientists, "Changes to the North Atlantic Subtropical High and Its Role in the Intensification of Summer Rainfall Variability in the Southeastern United States", the frequency of abnormally wet or dry summer weather in the southeastern United States has more than doubled in recent decades, due to an intensification of the Bermuda High. The scientists found that the Bermuda High, which is centered several hundred miles to the east of the Southeast U.S., has grown more intense during summer and has expanded westwards over the past 30 years. Since high pressure systems are areas of sinking air that discourage precipitation, this has made abnormally dry summers more common over the Southeast U.S. However, in summers when the Bermuda High happens to shift to the east, so that high pressure is not over the Southeast U.S., the stronger winds blowing clockwise around the Bermuda High bring an increased flow of very moist subtropical air from the south to the Southeast U.S., increasing the incidence of abnormally wet summers. Thus, the intensification of the Bermuda High has made extreme droughts and extreme floods more likely over the Southeast U.S. Using climate models, the scientists determined that human-caused global warming was likely the main cause of the significant intensification in the Bermuda High. Thus "Weather Whiplash" between drought and flood will probably become increasingly common in the coming decades over the Southeast U.S.


Figure 3. Observed June-July-August departure of precipitation from average over the SE United States for a 60-yr period (mm day−1). Horizontal dashed lines represent 1 standard deviation of the summer rainfall. Note that summer precipitation extremes exceeding one standard deviation have more than doubled during the most recent 30-year period compared to the previous 30-year period. Image credit: Li et al., 2011, Journal of Climate.

New climate change blog at The Guardian
In these days of steadily decreasing media coverage of climate change (and all science, in general), its good to see a fresh new source of good science appear in a major newspaper. The Guardian, a prominent UK news source, has a new blog called Climate Consensus – The 97%. The primary authors are Dana Nuccitelli of SkepticalScience and John Abraham, Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. The first post at the new blog is titled “Why is Reuters puzzled by global warming’s acceleration?”

Related Links
Don't miss the summary post on last week's remarkable snow storm by wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, The Phenomenal May Snowstorm of May 1-3, 2013

Extreme Drought to Extreme Flood: Weather Whiplash Hits the Midwest: my April 19, 2013 blog post.

Southeast U.S. drought: another Tropical Storm Alberto needed: my April 2012 post describing how 20% - 50% of all droughts in the Southeast U.S. are broken by tropical storms or hurricanes.

Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse: October 2010 post by Joe Romm at climateprogress.org.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Neapolitan:
It's not settled, but it's increasingly apparent to climate scientists that somewhere between "most of" and "every bit of" the warming is due to our burning of greenhouse gases.


According to Gavin Schmidt:

"Over the last 40 or so years, natural drivers would have caused cooling, and so the warming there has been … is caused by a combination of human drivers and some degree of internal variability. I would judge the maximum amplitude of the internal variability to be roughly 0.1 deg C over that time period, and so given the warming of ~0.5 deg C, I’d say somewhere between 80 to 120% of the warming. Slightly larger range if you want a large range for the internal stuff."
Member Since: June 27, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 3479
We can mess about all day and night arguing he toss about how much we as humans have altered the weather, climate, environment etc.
From my roof terrace I can see maybe a hundred thousand acres of the surface of the local planet. apart from the summits of a few distant mountains there are no areas I can see which have now not been planted by man.
Manipulated by people. Millions of olive trees and a few fields of wheat and esparagras!
At the end of the day which might be encroaching on us as we write. The world is not what it used to be and it is also not what people want it to be as its a short term park for gaining cash. After a few more disasters and plagues we might have to take stock of what we are farming and what is going wrong.
In the meantime, the seeds of greed are bearing fruit on all sides and who am I? Or you? Or them to call a halt to profit and gain, big time!
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Quoting Neapolitan:
It's not settled, but it's increasingly apparent to climate scientists that somewhere between "most of" and "every bit of" the warming is due to our burning of greenhouse gases.


You're even considering the possibility that natural factors have had no role at all in the warming trend? This is not scientifically realistic.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
264. VR46L
Goes 13 IR



and water Vapour

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Quoting Snowlover123:
>What is not settled is how much of the warming is human induced versus naturally caused...
It's not settled, but it's increasingly apparent to climate scientists that somewhere between "most of" and "every bit of" the warming is due to our burning of greenhouse gases.
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Quoting help4u:
ALGORE now worth 200 million dollars,global warming does pay off.Hope the elities leave us alittle to live on after they tax us to death!Oh how the rich in this government get richer!All from the biggest HOAX in history!


It's not the biggest hoax in history. Man probably has a partial role, however there are other factors to consider as well. Natural Factors are very important, and may even play a larger role than humans do with the warming of the climate over the last 100 years. Attributing Climate Change to Weather Events is also where there is a lot of disagreement. However, there are a few things that I think should be considered "settled."

1) Global Warming has taken place over the last 100-150 years.

2) Man has a partial role in that warming.

3) Natural Factors have a partial role in that warming.

What is not settled is how much of the warming is human induced versus naturally caused, how sensitive the Climate System is to an equilibrium doubling of CO2, and how weather patterns will change with an increase in CO2.
Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
GROUNDS ARE WELL SATURATED FROM 2 TO 4 INCHES OF RAINFALL THAT FELL
ACROSS NORTH AND EASTERN GEORGIA OVER THE WEEKEND
. FLOODING ALONG
SEVERAL STREAMS AND RIVERS ACROSS NORTH GEORGIA CONTINUES..
.AND
ADDITIONAL RAINFALL OF A HALF AN INCH THROUGH THIS EVENING WILL
KEEP WATER LEVELS HIGH.
MINOR FLOODING IS EXPECTED TO
CONTINUE...ESPECIALLY ACROSS NORTH AND NORTHWEST GEORGIA. A FLOOD
WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH THIS EVENING FOR AREAS ALONG AND
NORTHWEST OF A LINE FROM CARROLLTON TO CARTERSVILLE TO CHATSWORTH.

AS THE LOW PRESSURE MOVES ACROSS THE STATE...COLD TEMPERATURE
ALOFT COMBINED WITH MODEST INSTABILITIES WILL SUPPORT ISOLATED
THUNDERSTORMS OVER NORTH AND WEST CENTRAL GEORGIA DURING DAYTIME
HEATING. SMALL HAIL OR GRAUPEL AND GUSTY WINDS CAN BE EXPECTED IN
THESE THUNDERSTORMS.

Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Check out Chris Burt's newest blog post: "NW Coastal Washington Hotter Than Death Valley on Sunday May 5th"
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ALGORE now worth 200 million dollars,global warming does pay off.Hope the elities leave us alittle to live on after they tax us to death!Oh how the rich in this government get richer!All from the biggest HOAX in history!
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The Low that has cut off will bring needed rain to the Northeast. A lot of this area could see in excess of 1 inch of rain. The NAM tends to overdo precipitation amounts, but the other Global models are not too far off from these projected amounts.

Member Since: April 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
I would like to see Dr. Masters reply to Levi's comment #49 on pg. 1 of this edition of the WU blog.

I'll date myself here and confess that I am a child of the 1960s. I grew up on the North-Central Gulf Coast in a family that farmed a very small plot of land.

Until 1980 we never had any kind of severe drought - of the sort we couldn't handle by watering from our own well. But in 1980 and '81 we kicked off both years with spring floods, then couldn't buy a drop of rain for our property for months on end. In 1980 the drought was so bad and so hot, I remember news shots of I-10 having exploded in Texas, damaging vehicles! (Pockets of air under the asphalt super-hearted and eventually exploded.)

I remember another horrible drought in '87, and I believe that was a 2-year drought as well. Then I moved to Georgia, and saw many droughts of at least 2 years' duration.

Today, my family is scattered but all of my immediate family farms or gardens. We are close enough to the weather that we watch it pretty closely. And the sad thing we've come to realize is that we no longer seem to get those 3 or 4 years of "normal" weather inbetween really crazy weather years any more. Every year is just bizarre, epic.
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Wow, I was totally stunned when I saw climate change/global warming mentioned in this article, I totally didn't see that coming.

Yawn.

Here's an interesting fact, once upon a time there was an ice age -- then there wasn't. It was almost like there was 'climate change' or 'global warming' before there was a Cadillac Escalade to blame it on. But I'm sure giving billions, if not trillions, to the UN will fix the issue.
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Rain

The Rain has come again, 66.1F.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6025
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
So it has been raining here since Friday, with brief stops. Today is the 4th day and expecting more rain tonight and tomorrow morning
:(

Over 4" have been reported across the area here and for the last few days temps have been cooler than those in NYC.. what is this!?

Ever since I moved to Georgia there has been some weird weather going on.


Do me a HUGE favor then, DON'T move to South Florida.

:)
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54864
So it has been raining here since Friday, with brief stops. Today is the 4th day and expecting more rain tonight and tomorrow morning
:(

Over 4" have been reported across the area here and for the last few days temps have been cooler than those in NYC.. what is this!?

Ever since I moved to Georgia there has been some weird weather going on.
darn upper low!
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Pedley.....What was Kasey's famous sign off quote?


Google is your friend..... lol

"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6025
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Dak....Spent a month helping out after Andrew........... I cried every day


I lived through it. I cried everyday for months on end.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
I just found this intro and the link to the NASA-vid on spaceweather.com. Sort of extreme research.

GLOW IN THE DARK PLANTS ON THE ISS: Can plants adapt to the novelty of climate change? Researchers seeking to answer this question have sent genetically engineered plants to the ISS for exposure to extreme conditions. To report their stress, the plants have learned to glow in the dark.



And check out, if you like, the owlish looking behemoth sunspot 1734 which might fire.
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Quoting Dakster:


AND then... no more Florida if they stop by.


good one!!!
LOL
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


alright..

we had the siblings now we need the parents to stop by and say hi to Palm Beach
lol


AND then... no more Florida if they stop by.
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Quoting Dakster:


Wilma's older brother Andrew stopped by earlier and really put a hurting on South Florida.
Dak....Spent a month helping out after Andrew........... I cried every day
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Quoting Dakster:


Wilma's older brother Andrew stopped by earlier and really put a hurting on South Florida.


alright..

we had the siblings now we need the parents to stop by and say hi to Palm Beach
lol
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting PedleyCA:


I don't think so...lol
Pedley.....What was Kasey's famous sign off quote?
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Hurricane Inez was an example of how day-by-day steering currents are crucial to the track of a tropical cyclone. Troughing was initially forecast to take the system out to sea, but after Inez stalled near the coast of Florida in early October, a developing ridge of high pressure across the central Gulf States shunted it southwestward for the remainder of its existence.
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Max..... To change the subject a bit...... I was totally shocked and embarressed of my race after watching the movie "42" Saturday...


no words....
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


well, Wilma has a friend named Angelica.
She is jealous about Wilma's legacy in Florida, what do you think?


Wilma's older brother Andrew stopped by earlier and really put a hurting on South Florida.
Member Since: March 10, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 10572
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


well, Wilma has a friend named Angelica.
She is jealous about Wilma's legacy in Florida, what do you think?
Max..... To change the subject a bit...... I was totally shocked and embarressed of my race after watching the movie "42" Saturday...
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
barb.......Pedley was a top 10 DJ in the 60's and 70s right along side of Kasey Kasam


I don't think so...lol
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6025
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Max.Would her last name be Rubble?
Or maybe Flintstone?
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Quoting stormchaser19:
Hurricane Inez (1966):
One of the most strange trajectory that i've seen for a Cape Verde storm


It was very small but very powerful.
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Quoting SLU:


You know the steering currents were very dynamic when you see a track like that.


Yes, she was really trying hard to recurve but the ridge was more strong, the interesting part is when the storm reach Florida... :)
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2169
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Max.Would her last name be Rubble?


well, Wilma has a friend named Angelica.
She is jealous about Wilma's legacy in Florida, what do you think?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting barbamz:


I just love your dj qualities, Pedley. You're always lighting up my mood to listen to these (old) songs. Nice background sounds to follow the blog. Thanks!
barb.......Pedley was a top 10 DJ in the 60's and 70s right along side of Kasey Kasam
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Quoting Dakster:


What summit is that? Where is it?


Greenland, I believe, no Summit at North Pole.
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6025
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


why so mean???
I have a friend named Wilma, she's fun and happy to have people know the name without knowing her.
Max.Would her last name be Rubble?
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Quoting allancalderini:
If I remember correctly Frances was not a major when it struck Florida but I still understand.for what I see Wilma was the worst for you.
Allan...Major or not...........Francis sure caused havok with her longivity and damage to the beautiful Banyan trees.
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Quoting floridafisherman:


don't forget Charlie! that one was the strongest to hit florida in 2004 cat 4/ nearly cat 5 with unofficial gusts to 178mph


Even though it was amazing to have a category 4 on that part of the coast of Florida and it did cause a lot of damage, it could have been a lot worse because Charley was so tiny and was moving quickly.
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228. SLU
Quoting stormchaser19:
Hurricane Inez (1966):
One of the most strange trajectory that i've seen for a Cape Verde storm


You know the steering currents were very dynamic when you see a track like that.
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Yep Allan.........Francis and Jeanne in 2004, and the B**ch Wilma in 2005


why so mean???
I have a friend named Wilma, she's fun and happy to have people know the name without knowing her.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
summit cam



What summit is that? Where is it?
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Quoting allancalderini:
If I remember correctly Frances was not a major when it struck Florida but I still understand.for what I see Wilma was the worst for you.


don't forget Charlie! that one was the strongest to hit florida in 2004 cat 4/ nearly cat 5 with unofficial gusts to 178mph
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summit cam

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54864
Quoting PedleyCA:


Already posted it, awhile back. Requests?

@176


I just love your dj qualities, Pedley. You're always lighting up my mood to listen to these (old) songs. Nice background sounds to follow the blog. Thanks!
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Hurricane Inez (1966):
One of the most strange trajectory that i've seen for a Cape Verde storm
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2169
Amazing! I didn't know that. The article says they are harmless. I hope bloggers in this region will tell us when this happens. 17 years are quite a long time.

Billions of cicadas to invade US east coast after 17 years underground
Associated Press in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 May 2013 21.04 BST

Any day now, billions of cicadas with bulging red eyes will crawl out of the earth after 17 years underground and overrun the US east coast. They will arrive in such numbers that people from North Carolina to Connecticut will be outnumbered roughly 600 to one. Maybe more. ...

Since 1996, this group of one-inch bugs, in wingless nymph form, has been a few feet underground, sucking on tree roots and biding their time. They will emerge only when the ground temperature reaches precisely 64F. After a few weeks up in the trees, they will die and their offspring will go underground, not to return until 2030.

"It's just an amazing accomplishment," Berenbaum says. "How can anyone not be impressed?"


Read the whole article on The Guardian
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
LOL Plaza..........Go back one page

Please don't let me be misunderstood!
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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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