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

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

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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

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167. lawntonlookers
4:29 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Aquak9

--Air Pressure--

Above is another link on air pressure that gives the record high and low pressure.
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166. LakeShadow
4:33 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
I'm going to go buy some Frz OJ futures now...
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165. petet
02 01, 2008 16:34 GMT
In Varna,Bulgaria now we have a huge winter storm with a lot of thunders (!)
I have never heard and seen thunders in winter storm
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164. Weather456
12:18 PM AST on January 02, 2008
Here is some info:

History for KFLJACKS20
Lakshore, Jacksonville, FL

Highest Pressures:

2007 - 1031.0hPa
2006 - 1034.4hPa
2005 - 1046.6hPa
2004 - 1035.1hPa (Obs started in NOV 2004)
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
163. NEwxguy
4:29 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
better horde the oranges and OJ,prices will be sky rocketing.
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162. franck
4:29 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Aquak9

From Yahoo forum also:

Go to http://www.wunderground.com, put in the zip code at the top. Scroll down to "History & Almanac". Under "Detailed History and Climate" put in the date you want and click go. It gives you all kinds of data, and barometric pressure is down a little.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
161. franck
4:20 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Aquak9

From USA Today (didn't know that source was good for anything):

A: The highest barometric pressure ever recorded on Earth was 32.01 inches, measured in Agata, U.S.S.R., on December 31, 1968. Agata is located in northern Siberia. The weather was clear and very cold at the time, with temperatures between -40° and -58°.

The lowest pressure ever measured was 25.69 inches, set on Oct. 12, 1979, during Typhoon Tip in the western Pacific Ocean. The measurement was based on an instrumental observation made from a reconnaissance aircraft.

Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
160. aquak9
11:18 AM EST on January 02, 2008
Thanks, 456. I got all the time in the world today, just chillin'...

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159. LakeShadow
4:14 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Link

on another note... here's an article on Fla. citrus worries concerning the cold snap...
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158. LakeShadow
4:10 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Link

Why to people shoot their guns in the air on New Years? Dont they know that what goes up must come down? I just never understood that sort of carelessness and stupidity...anyone want to explain this practice?
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157. IKE
10:10 AM CST on January 02, 2008
I wish I knew the answer aquak9...maybe call the NWS in JAX?
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156. Weather456
12:11 PM AST on January 02, 2008
152. aquak9 11:58 AM AST on January 02, 2008 Hide this comment.
(futility?)

G'morning everyone! Here in Jacksonville, Florida, my barometer says 30.44 and rising. Don't know if I've seen it that high before.

Can anyone get some pressure history for this area? Feel free to wu-mail me, I'm curious to know what some of our highest barometric readings have ever been for Northeast Florida. Thank you!


Can u give me a sec...i think WU has one
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
155. aquak9
11:11 AM EST on January 02, 2008
heck, Ike, that was the 3rd time I've posted that question. I figure I'll either get an answer, or end up on everyone's "ignore" list by the end of the day! :)
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154. IKE
10:04 AM CST on January 02, 2008
aquak9 9:58 AM CST on January 02, 2008
(futility?)


LOL.
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153. Weather456
11:44 AM AST on January 02, 2008
WATL....

More interesting weather for the Western Atlantic. First, a cold front goes from extends from Belize, across the Western Caribbean though 20N/82W, over Central Cuba and the Bahamas and the Atlantic along 30N/70W 36N/60W. Broken to scattered showers are within 180 nm west of the front line.

Second, surface high pressure flow continues over the Atlantic ahead of the front but is weakening a bit. The stratocumulus cloud field is now being steered and dominated by the very broad cyclonic circulation of Invest 95L located near 23N/45W. Stratocumuli cells are seen rotating in and around the circulation to 60W, north of 20N and to 63W south of 20N.

by W456



Circulation of ex-95L

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
152. aquak9
10:56 AM EST on January 02, 2008
(futility?)

G'morning everyone! Here in Jacksonville, Florida, my barometer says 30.44 and rising. Don't know if I've seen it that high before.

Can anyone get some pressure history for this area? Feel free to wu-mail me, I'm curious to know what some of our highest barometric readings have ever been for Northeast Florida. Thank you!
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151. NEwxguy
3:55 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
I know I jump into water in the 60's,kind of takes your breath away,but with water temps in the low 40's,your heart must stop briefly and you go numb.
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150. LakeShadow
3:51 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
yeah, there's a crew that jumps into Lake Erie, too. I've always wondered what its like, but never enough to find out...
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149. NEwxguy
3:48 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
141. LakeShadow 3:26 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Link

ahhh...winter in New York...

LOL,we do the same thing here in Boston on New Year's Day,not on my list of things I want to do on New Year's day
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148. Weather456
11:42 AM AST on January 02, 2008
142. sydneyaust1 11:28 AM AST on January 02, 2008 Hide this comment.
A site you might find interesting 456

Link


Thanks....
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
147. Weather456
11:24 AM AST on January 02, 2008
....SYNOPSIS....

GULF OF MEXICO/NORTHWEST ATLANTIC OCEAN WEST OF 50W....

The main story this morning over the region is very strong high pressure. As a cold front pushes westward into the Western Caribbean and Atlantic, the associated 1047 mb high pressure system continues to establish itself over Central Texas. The is bringing clear to partly cloudy skies over Texas, the Deep South, Southeast United States and the Gulf waters north of 28N. Broken to overcast cold air stratocumulus clouds cover the entire Gulf...gradually becoming deeper from 28N to the Coastal Plains of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.

QuikSCAT and surface observations indicate the high pressure system is also producing very strong winds over the Gulf of Mexico in excess of 20 knots, with some wind reports as high 35 knots. These winds are making for red flag gale warnings over the entire Gulf for dangerous seas. Small craft should exercise caution. Perhaps the most extreme wind event is over the Tehuantepec Peninsula, where QuikSCAT reveals winds well near 50 knots.

by W456
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
146. NEwxguy
3:37 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
143. P451 3:32 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
964MB off Washington. 1040MB in E. Carolina for the 2-day freeze.

Good Stuff


Probably a little early for such a question but does anyone have any feel as to when a good solid coastal snow storm will come about? Been starving for a good snow event here in Central Jersey for quite some time.

not next week,a major pattern shift is going on, and above normal temps, for next week.
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145. aquak9
10:34 AM EST on January 02, 2008
NEwxguy- the polar bears don't want to come to Florida! We are looking at the possibilty of flurries along our northeast coast.

Maybe 456 has a spare room for the polar bears? :)
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144. IKE
9:34 AM CST on January 02, 2008
. P451 9:32 AM CST on January 02, 2008
964MB off Washington. 1040MB in E. Carolina for the 2-day freeze.


To every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction.
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142. sydneyaust1
3:20 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
A site you might find interesting 456

Link
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141. LakeShadow
3:23 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Link

ahhh...winter in New York...
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140. BajaALemt
3:16 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
*Shivers* Morning folks (Happy New Year)
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139. IKE
9:21 AM CST on January 02, 2008
What a pressure!

"Observed at: Muskogee, Oklahoma
Elevation: 607 ft
[Clear]
19 °F
Clear
Humidity: 57%
Dew Point: 6 °F
Wind: 9 mph from the NNW
Pressure: 31.00 in (Rising)
Windchill: 8 °F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 1 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)"..........
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138. LakeShadow
3:20 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
yeah...right down to the shoot out...just wish it ended differently.
I was at the edge of my seat the whole game, though... great game.
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137. NEwxguy
3:19 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Hey,Lake,that was a pretty cool hockey game Buffalo put on.
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136. Weather456
11:15 AM AST on January 02, 2008
sydneyaust1, ur welcome
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
135. NEwxguy
3:18 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
134. LakeShadow 3:17 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
good morning. very cold here. I just saw a polar bear look for a jacket....

by tomorrow,that polar bear is looking for plane tickets to florida.
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134. LakeShadow
3:14 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
good morning. very cold here. I just saw a polar bear look for a jacket....
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133. sydneyaust1
3:05 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Thanks for all the great posts 456 - especially appreciate Tropics 101
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132. NEwxguy
3:04 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
wish it was a holiday today,need some days off to recover from the holidays.
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131. sydneyaust1
2:47 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
I am just listening to a live report from Iowa on the Radio about the primaries and it is so cold there it has knocked out their Satellite Comms. The lady was saying how she has been assured it will be warmer tomorrow ...from what I have been hearing one here warmer means -19C up from -20C LOL
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130. IKE
8:56 AM CST on January 02, 2008
. Weather456 8:55 AM CST on January 02, 2008
Just curious,

Don't you guys in the U.S.A. have holidays the day after Christmas (26th) and the day after New Years (2nd).



No...unless you consider work a holiday.
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129. Weather456
10:50 AM AST on January 02, 2008
Just curious,

Don't you guys in the U.S.A. have holidays the day after Christmas (26th) and the day after New Years (2nd).
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
128. Weather456
10:40 AM AST on January 02, 2008
a 1047 mb high maybe 1050 mb high is approaching the Texas coast. Just look at the pressure readings.



This high is also having an impact on the surf across the SW Gulf.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
127. HIEXPRESS
9:35 AM EST on January 02, 2008
119. MichaelSTL 9:28 AM EST
There have been hurricane season way more pathetic in terms of ACE per storm than 2007, like 1994, which had 7 storms but an ACE of only 31.53 (4.5 per storm vs. 4.86 for 2007, not including subtropical storms in both cases).

STL your view has much merit. I was looking at something a lot simpler - taking it down to an individual storm. When I can go down to the beach & look at a named "tropical storm" 50 miles away(closer before naming), & the sun is out & the wind is at 18Kt, that's PATHETIC. (I know, back side & so forth, but still... I was ripped off/have change coming $$ :))

Barry - Same from my house. I wasn't close enough to observe any others this year.
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126. Weather456
10:31 AM AST on January 02, 2008
The geography of the area is the key to understanding what causes the event in the first place. You basically have a funneling effect between two mountain ranges separated by a valley which can concentrate and strengthen the winds within a narrow area.

In the map below, the Tabasco Plain separates the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre del Sur (Southern Sierra Madre) and Sierra Madre de Chiapas.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
125. aquak9
9:39 AM EST on January 02, 2008
ok, I'll try again...

G'morning everyone! Here in Jacksonville, Florida, my barometer says 30.44 and rising. Don't know if I've seen it that high before.

Can anyone get some pressure history for this area? Feel free to wu-mail me, I'm curious to know what some of our highest barometric readings have ever been for Northeast Florida. Thank you!
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124. NEwxguy
2:38 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
expected high in the boston suburbs tomorrow,14 de-de-de-degrees.
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123. NEwxguy
2:35 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
Good morning,I hope the entire east coast is ready for this deep freeze,I can see the orange crops getting a lot of damage from this.
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122. IKE
8:36 AM CST on January 02, 2008
Highest pressure I could find at a reliable reporting station in Texas....

"Observed at: McKinney, Texas
Elevation: 584 ft
[Clear]
19 °F
Clear
Humidity: 88%
Dew Point: 16 °F
Wind: 4 mph from the North
Pressure: 30.97 in (Rising)
Windchill: 14 °F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)"


That is one massive high pressure system.
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121. Weather456
10:22 AM AST on January 02, 2008
Gulf of Tehuantepec Storm Event

By W456 on Tuesday...

Meanwhile, the associated 1043 mb high pressure system is established over the Texas Panhandle producing fair weather over the state, and the Southeastern Portion of the United States. The high is also producing northeasterly gale force winds over the Gulf behind the front. These winds will begin to impact the Isthmus of Tehuantepec with storm-force winds expected over the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

This morning's Quikscat



Visible Satellite Imagery with surface wind reports in the last hour. One station is reporting 30 Knot winds on the Bay of Campeche Side of the Isthmus.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
120. Orcasystems
2:28 PM GMT on January 02, 2008
I read this article this morning, and almost choked on my coffee....

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A hard freeze expected in parts of Central Florida early Thursday will bring a chance of snow flurries in Daytona Beach and other areas as temperatures drop into the teens and low 20s.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
117. Weather456
10:09 AM AST on January 02, 2008
QuikSCAT, a form of remote* sensing, has truly revolutionized how we do surface analysis. This cold front was easily plotted using this QuikSCAT pass, using the basic idea of winds associated with cold front.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076

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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.