Top U.S. weather story of 2007: the Southeast U.S. drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:29 PM GMT on January 01, 2008

Share this Blog
3
+

The year 2007 is in the record books as the driest or second driest year on record for much of the Southeastern U.S. A mere 31.85 inches of rain fell in Atlanta, Georgia, during the year, 62% of the average of 48 inches. This year's rainfall total just missed breaking the record of 31.80 inches set in 1954. Rainfall records in Atlanta go back to 1930. The drought was worse in Alabama, where Birmingham had its driest year on record--just 28.86", a full 25 inches below average, smashing the record low of 36.14" set in 1931. Huntsville was even drier--a mere 28.65"--29 inches below average. Surrounding areas of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia also experienced extraordinarily dry years (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Drought conditions in the Southeastern U.S. were at the highest level possible--exceptional drought--at the end of 2007. Image credit: NOAA.

Although the current drought is exceptional, Atlanta has had much drier 2-year periods. During the drought of 1954-1955, Atlanta received 68.23 inches of precipitation--a 28 inch deficit from the normal 2-year rainfall. The deficit for the past two years is only 16 inches, since an average amount of rain fell in 2006 (48.46 inches). Based on the climatological record, Georgia can expect a two-year drought about once in 25 years, and a drought lasting three or more years about once every 40 years. Drought is part of the natural cycle in Georgia, and it would not be a surprise to see the drought of 2007 continue until the winter of 2008. Although December 2007 saw Atlanta's first above average month of rainfall since November 2006, the coming two weeks look very dry, and the current La Nina atmospheric pattern usually brings below average rainfall.

What is causing the Georgia drought?
Two main factors are responsible for the Southeast U.S. drought. Most importantly, a persistent jet stream pattern has set up that steers storms away from the region, and into Texas instead. Texas, which suffered extreme drought in 2006, found itself awash in floods in 2007, as the jet stream pattern brought storm after storm to the state. Another contributing factor to the current Southeast drought is the absence of tropical storms and hurricanes during 2006 and 2007. These storms are an important part of the annual rainfall budget for the Southeast. For example, in 2005, 29% of Atlanta's yearly rainfall came from five tropical storms:

1.36" Arlene June 11-12, 2005
1.40" Katrina, August 29-30, 2005
5.48" Cindy, July 6-8, 2005
5.41" Dennis, July 9-12, 2005
2.94" Tammy, October 6-8, 2005


Figure 2. Over ten inches of rain fell on Atlanta in 2005 from two tropical cyclones, Dennis and Cindy. Tropical cyclones accounted for 29% of Atlanta's rainfall that year. Image credit: NOAA/HPC.

There is little evidence that global warming contributed to this drought. The Southeastern U.S. has cooled by about 0.1° F over the past 100 years, even as the rest of the globe has warmed 1° F. The reasons for this lack of warming in the Southeast are not fully understood. One theory is that the cooling is due to air pollution blocking sunlight. Another theory, proposed by Georgia State Climatologist David Stooksbury, attributes the cooling to the shift from 80 percent row crops (like corn and cotton) to 60 percent forest. Land use changes like this can have a significant impact on how solar energy heats the air once it is absorbed by the soil.

Why Atlanta is vulnerable to drought
Atlanta, unlike most major cities, grew up around rail lines rather than a major body of water. Although the Chattahoochee River runs through Atlanta, the city lies on top of a watershed, with no large bodies of water upstream. The rivers and streams in the region are small, and the bedrock limits how much ground water is available. The Lake Lanier reservoir that supplies Atlanta with most of its water was constructed in the 1950s. Since that time, the population of Atlanta has quadrupled, increasing the pressure on the reservoir's limited water. Lake Lanier is at its record lowest level--more than 19 feet below average. If the drought continues into the summer of 2008, and no tropical storms arrive to break the drought, Atlanta may run out of water.

By 2030, the population of the Atlanta metropolitan area is expected to increase from 5 million to 9 million. Current water resources in the regions will be unable to support this population increase, unless planners make a concerted and expensive effort to plan ahead. The expected increase in temperatures over the coming decades due to global warming will make future droughts in the region even more severe, so Atlanta has a very tough road ahead of it.

Jeff Masters

Georgia Drought Series 2 (HurricaneIan)
Like my last series, this Series of photos concern the drought in North Georgia. These were taken at Lake Chatuge, Georgia. This is near the North Carolina Line and near a town called Hiawassee. North Georgia is experiencing a major drought. These docks are designed to float and adjust to water depth, however, now they are high and dry. The depth of these lakes varies from season to season, however, this is by far the lowest I have ever seen it. This water is not only used for drinking, this is also the primary supply of hydro-electric power for the region. The drought is causing other problems as well, the leaves are not changing properly, some look burnt and others fall off before turning. North Georgia and surrounding areas need rain in the worst way. The good news is it is raining
Georgia Drought Series 2
Scenes from Lake Lanier, GA (DadandMarcher)
Here are a few scenes from Lake Lanier in Buford, GA. We are going through a record setting drought this year. Everyday now we set a new record for the Lake level since the inception of the lake in the 1950's
Scenes from Lake Lanier, GA

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 467 - 417

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12Blog Index

467. Bonedog
8:57 AM EST on January 03, 2008
gotcha orca. so basically if they made it just repair the broken line and keep them where they are.

I hope they made it, all were close to 8 inches. Would be a shame to have to restock come spring time and start all over again.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
465. Orcasystems
1:51 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
460. Bonedog 1:50 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Orca we are on well water so no chlorine in it. Fresh mountain water is all. She did add the pond start to it to stablize everything though.

I just want to get home now, but stuck at work. If they made it the wife wants to bring them into the garage to over winter now. Said they deserve it for being fighters
Action: | Ignore User


The shock could kill them, they have to warm up slowly, they are in hibernation mode right now. If you all of a sudden (day or two) take them above hibernation temp (basically about 45-50) they may not have their immune systems working.

The being said, one of my friends winters his indoors, and keep the temp around 60-65 degrees. They grow into Monsters because they can eat year round.

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
464. NEwxguy
1:53 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
anyone know of past history of any snowfall in florida?
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 881 Comments: 15840
463. moonlightcowboy
1:51 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
457. Weather456 1:47 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
I have updated my blog pertaining to California Storm Number 1 for those looking for info.


Oh, man, yeah I saw that in Taz's blog last night. The Sierra's are expecting gusts of up near CAT 5 strength! Thanks for your update 456, I'll take a look!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
462. Orcasystems
1:49 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Cancun
2 days 4 hours and 9 minutes

I would appreciate it if you guys would get the temps back to normal down there? I have enough problems packing without having to worry about cold weather gear also.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
461. Drakoen
1:49 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Wintry Precip of shore.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
460. Bonedog
8:48 AM EST on January 03, 2008
Orca we are on well water so no chlorine in it. Fresh mountain water is all. She did add the pond start to it to stablize everything though.

I just want to get home now, but stuck at work. If they made it the wife wants to bring them into the garage to over winter now. Said they deserve it for being fighters
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
459. Bonedog
8:44 AM EST on January 03, 2008
LOL thats a good one :)


Yea read this morning forecast disscusion. 15 degrees below normal today and then 15 degrees above normal monday.

talk about a roller coaster
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
458. Orcasystems
1:46 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
450. Bonedog 1:39 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Thanks Orca


Orca thats about what was left according to the wife. She added some water so if they did make it they will have something to swim in. So hopefully they made it.
Action: | Ignore User


Hope she remembered the declorinator
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
457. Weather456
12:51 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
I have updated my blog pertaining to California Storm Number 1 for those looking for info.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
456. NEwxguy
1:43 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
GM,Bone,this the start of our rollercoaster temp ride,friends returnin home to palm beach today,asked them if they want to borrow my winter coat for when they arrive.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 881 Comments: 15840
455. Bonedog
8:42 AM EST on January 03, 2008
morning NE
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
454. NEwxguy
1:37 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
just outside Boston

Fair

4°F
(-16°C) Humidity: 60 %
Wind Speed: NW 15 G 21 MPH
Barometer: 30.43" (1032.4 mb)
Dewpoint: -7°F (-22°C)
Wind Chill: -14°F (-26°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 881 Comments: 15840
453. Drakoen
1:41 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
I hope we see more mornings like this with the same setup. I don't mind the chilly weather.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
452. biff4ugo
8:04 AM EST on January 03, 2008
It is cold in North Florida here today. The odd thing is that it is so dry, there isn't any frost, glazed windshields, or even cruchy grass. Now THAT is odd for a Florida hard freeze.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
450. Bonedog
8:36 AM EST on January 03, 2008
Thanks Orca


Orca thats about what was left according to the wife. She added some water so if they did make it they will have something to swim in. So hopefully they made it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
449. Drakoen
1:38 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
448. vortfix 1:37 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
You should have called these guys JP:

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL


Obviously they don't have a recorded report of that particular event.
I have seen sparse snow mixed with light mist several times.
February, 2005 was one time and I phoned it in. All they said was....yeah we've heard about some scattered flurries. That never went in the books either...LOL!


ROFL. thats too bad.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
447. Orcasystems
1:28 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
441. Bonedog 1:25 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
:( Sad day today for me :(

Wife just called me at work, the cold weather broke the pump line to my Koi pond, she found the pond pumped dry and what little water was left froze solid. Looks like I just lost all my Koi :(
Action: | Ignore User



Sorry to hear that Bone, I also have a large Koi pond. I has something similar to that happen a few years ago, but was shocked to find out after the frozen top layer melted, that I still had some left. The pump left about 4" of water in the pond that was insulated by the top ice layer.

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
446. Drakoen
1:33 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Hey jp, haven't heard from you in while...Everything going good?
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
444. moonlightcowboy
1:28 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Ocean event snow in FL - lol, somehow that just doesn't sound right!

Sounds like Global Cooling to me! Yikes!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
443. Drakoen
1:26 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Showers are about 10 miles of-shore the Treasure coast continuing to move to the SW.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
441. Bonedog
8:20 AM EST on January 03, 2008
:( Sad day today for me :(

Wife just called me at work, the cold weather broke the pump line to my Koi pond, she found the pond pumped dry and what little water was left froze solid. Looks like I just lost all my Koi :(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
440. hurricane23
8:21 AM EST on January 03, 2008

No records broken here across miami dade was temps stayed around 37-39 degrees....A slow but steady warm is in the cards through the week.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13804
439. Drakoen
1:20 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Moonlightcowboy, I am watching to see if i can get in on some ocean event snow lol.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
438. Drakoen
1:19 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Its i "cold" here lol. My fingers are numb. I have been monitoring some precip of-shore looks like its having a tough time coming inland.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
435. davidw221
8:11 AM EST on January 03, 2008
Dear, 456 would you be so kind as to put your link to your blog in here for us.
Thank you in advance.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
434. moonlightcowboy
1:12 PM GMT on January 03, 2008



...I hear ya, Drakoen and Vort - cold temps are pushing SE, ya'll still may get a chance. Yep, definitely chilly here!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
432. Drakoen
1:09 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
No snowman yet MLC lol. I see its bitterly cold for you.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
431. moonlightcowboy
1:07 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Des Moines, Iowa - 11.0


...in caucus country this morning!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
429. Bonedog
8:03 AM EST on January 03, 2008
Sussex County, Wantage, New Jersey
Elevation: 1020 ft

3.1 °F
Clear
Humidity: 74%
Dew Point: -3 °F
Wind: 13.3 mph from the NNW
Wind Gust: 39.6 mph
Pressure: 30.51 in (Rising)
Windchill: -14 °F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)

been droping a degree an hour up here. Stay warm folks

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
428. moonlightcowboy
12:59 PM GMT on January 03, 2008


Good morning! You Floridians building a snowman yet? lol, hope all the oranges are fine!

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
427. BahaHurican
7:48 AM EST on January 03, 2008
Morning all. We bottomed out near 60 here overnight (57, I think). It's overcast and chilly because of the wind. However, it's not as cold as it could have been if it hadn't stayed overcast last night. While the clouds will keep the temps down today, they also kept it up last night.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
426. Drakoen
12:59 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
At 850mb the models still show freezing the 0 degree celcius line. So its cold enough to snow at that height and possibly down to the surface if temperatures remain in the 30s.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
425. Drakoen
12:53 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Its 38 degrees here.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
424. ShenValleyFlyFish
7:52 AM EST on January 03, 2008
Anyone thinks they are cold check out my blog.
Guaranteed to make you feel better about your situation:
Link
Shen
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
422. Drakoen
12:34 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Nice close up. The Bands look to be organizing a bit better of shore. Expecting the showers to move into the Treasure Coast with in the next half an hour and in the next hour possibly into Palm Beach county.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
419. Drakoen
12:28 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
418. vortfix 12:28 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
On that radar I posted earlier it appears there is some frozen precip showing now.


yea they are begining to come in. Some of that blue is actually is actually a radar effect.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562
417. Drakoen
12:21 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Avery nice Snow band is ofshore central Florida moving to the Southwest.
No Flurries being reported yet as the bulk of the precip is still ofshore.
It is currently in the low to mid 30's along the space and treasure coast enough to support some flurries or a rain/snow mix.
These showers are quickly moving to the SouthWest and it will be interesting to see which area get some snow.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30562

Viewing: 467 - 417

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy
45 °F
Partly Cloudy