Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:06 PM GMT on January 05, 2006
I was hoping to be able to declare an end to the Hurricane Season of 2005 today, but Zeta had other ideas. After weakening to a tropical depression last night, Zeta has made another comeback and is a tropical storm again. Satellite imagery is showing deep convection moving in towards Zeta's center on the east side, and both ship reports and satellite measurements support calling Zeta a tropical storm once again. The wind shear has apparently dropped this morning, allowing the re-organization. This is likely to be short-lived, and extremely high levels of wind shear are forecast to impact the storm tonight. This shear will surely tear Zeta apart by Saturday at the latest.
The Texas/Oklahoma drought
The latest drought map for the U.S. was released today, as it is every Thursday by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center. Comparing today's image to the one from a month ago shows the steady increase in area and severity of the drought affecting Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and surrounding areas. Today's drought map now puts the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area into the "exceptional" drought category, the most severe category of drought. Ninety-day rainfall totaled less than half normal across the southern Mississippi Valley, resulting in "severe" drought expanding into northeastern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri, while the "extreme" drought in southern Texas joined the extreme drought area in the north. Twelve-month rainfall deficits exceed 20 inches in southeast Oklahoma, northeast Texas, southwest Arkansas, and parts of Louisiana. It's ironic to note that had Hurricane Rita hit Houston and moved northward across Dallas/Fort Worth as originally forecast, her 4-8 inch rains would have likely saved tens of millions of dollars in drought damage the area is seeing now. Of course, Rita would have done billions in other damage, so I'm sure given the choice, the drought-stricken areas will take the drought!
Easing of the Northwestern U.S. drought
Figure 1 also shows a marked easing of the drought affecting the Northwest U.S., where most areas have been under a significant 5-7 year drought. While just one season of rains cannot put enough groundwater back into the aquifers to fully break such a long term drought, conditions this winter are a fantastic turn around for an area that was under extreme to exceptional drought for years.
Figure 1. Drought maps for December 6 and January 3, showing the progression of the drought over Texas, and the relaxing of the drought over the Northwestern U.S.
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