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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Viewing: 567 - 517

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567. biff4ugo
1:45 PM GMT on February 18, 2008
I'm very happy to see the south getting rain again. Tornadoes are not so welcome but we take the good with the bad.
January's record snow coverage is a very good thing to help cool the hemisphere down. Go La Nina Go!
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 116 Comments: 1603
566. biff4ugo
8:26 PM GMT on January 28, 2008
I keep hearing about the melting of the Antarctic Ice sheet, but the temperatures look well within the average temperatures.
What is up with that???
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 116 Comments: 1603
564. WeatherChickSTL
8:06 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
New blog up . . .
563. Cavin Rawlins
8:04 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Dvorak readings will begin shortly

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
562. hurricane23
8:01 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
The begining of the parade!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13841
561. hurricane24
7:31 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
soz

but we have td10s in the south pacfic!
560. Cavin Rawlins
7:29 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
sporteguy03,

ur welcome
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
557. NEwxguy
7:20 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
from outside boston

Fair

11°F
(-12°C) Humidity: 46 %
Wind Speed: NW 14 G 23 MPH
Barometer: 30.49" (1034.5 mb)
Dewpoint: -6°F (-21°C)
Wind Chill: -5°F (-21°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 888 Comments: 15984
556. weatherboyfsu
7:08 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Hello and Good Afternoon,,,,,,,,
Member Since: July 17, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1025
555. weatherboyfsu
7:06 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Good morning,

We definitely are experiencing Global Warming!!!!

I live about 25 miles west of Orlando Florida and we got down to 24 degrees this morning. Some records set.........Yep.....we definitely are causing global warming........Yeah right!!!!!!


I believe along with many prominent scientist that we humans have little or no affect on long term changes to our earths atmosphere. This earth will be here long after we are gone.

Come on people, we do not know everything and we surely cant analyze our earth on such a short resume.(How long have we been keeping records?) LOL>>>>>>> Before we could do enough damage to cause an effect, we would be extinct ourselves from the damage we caused. So, basically, we couldnt if we wanted to.

One more thing.....There are more species that are extinct then are living......Go figure!


Have a great day and go out and make this world a better place because its the right thing to do not because we have to save our behinds...........


Member Since: July 17, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1025
554. sporteguy03
7:03 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Thanks for the update weather456
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5417
553. ShenValleyFlyFish
7:01 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
vort
Isn't everyone in Florida a Yankee deserter or escaped from Cuba?
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
552. Sfloridacat5
6:59 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
It was cold this morning. We hit 30 degrees at 5:30am at my house (Ft. Myers area). That easily beat the old record of 34 degrees.

But temps are expected back in the low 70s by tomorrow and low 80s by Sunday.
Member Since: September 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 9219
547. ShenValleyFlyFish
6:44 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Thanks 456. I printed (on paper) a copy of your instructions and will play around with it.

Shen
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
546. Cavin Rawlins
6:44 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
545. hondaguy 6:30 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
456, Just curious...do you do this for your job, or have a job that allows you to do this? LOL

Much time is invested in wunderground for you.

I mean I'm at work, but when I sit at the front desk I'm grounded and cant leave, and occasionally have absolutely nothing to do.
Action: | Ignore User


I'm an intern at my local met office. So i have acess to these data almost 24/7. Not like before in 2004, 2005 and 2006 where i had skool and i only could of most a limited amount of posts.

It also looks like i have invested alot of time in international weather but that is becuz i'm an off season guy. But come May 1....nothing but Africa to Central America, which is where i specialize.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
545. hondaguy
6:30 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
456, Just curious...do you do this for your job, or have a job that allows you to do this? LOL

Much time is invested in wunderground for you.

I mean I'm at work, but when I sit at the front desk I'm grounded and cant leave, and occasionally have absolutely nothing to do.
544. Cavin Rawlins
6:27 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
543. ShenValleyFlyFish 6:20 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Thanks for images 456. How do you go about capturing and uploading them? Thought I had it figured out but obviously don't.
Shen


Good ?

I select the region of the images i want.
Then i pressure the "print screen key"....its near the scroll key on most keyboards.
Then i paste it into a photo editing software...like Paint Shop Pro
Then add futher adjustments (like arrows and effects)
Save it to my computer.
Go to imageshack front page
Like broswe by the upload section
select the image
upload it
then copy and paste the url to the blog using the image code:

img src="url.com"...enlcose everything in the greater than and less than brackets
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
543. ShenValleyFlyFish
6:20 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Thanks for images 456. How do you go about capturing and uploading them? Thought I had it figured out but obviously don't.
Shen
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
542. NEwxguy
6:17 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
-5 deg. wind chill here.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 888 Comments: 15984
541. NEwxguy
6:17 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Back after walking the dog.Dog is suppose to be man's best friend,so you would have thought he would have done his thing a little quicker today,but noooooo!I had to threaten him that I was going to shave all his long fur off.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 888 Comments: 15984
540. Cavin Rawlins
6:11 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Observations for FREEPORT, Bahamas (MYGF)
Observation time: 03 Jan 2008 18:00 UTC

Altimeter Setting 30.45 inHg
Station Pressure 1029.8 hPa
Temperature 59 F ( 15.0 C)
Dew Point 45 F ( 7.0 C)
Relative Humidity 59 %

Wind Direction 40 deg (NE)
Wind Speed 17 kt
Visibility 6 mile
Clouds Broken at 3000 feet
Air Density 1.240 kg/m3

Those in bolds are typical profiles of cold air stratocumulus clouds.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
539. hondaguy
6:03 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
It's cool...at least I got #537! haha
538. Cavin Rawlins
6:03 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
536. hondaguy 2:00 PM AST on January 03, 2008 Hide this comment.
456. Post 531. Is that of the Black Sea?

I assume so, but as stated before I'm a bit geographically challenged! LOL


I'm sorry about that...the two images are of the black sea. I will try in future to always remember that.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
537. Cavin Rawlins
6:01 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Current Winds are rather briskly

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
536. hondaguy
6:00 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
456. Post 531. Is that of the Black Sea?

I assume so, but as stated before I'm a bit geographically challenged! LOL
535. robinvtx
5:55 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
big mistake at NWS

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?site=hgx&map.x=188&map.y=128



for Houston anyways
534. Cavin Rawlins
5:52 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
These cold air stratocumuli cloud cells are caused by the moistening and cooling effect of cold continental airmass that blow offshore behind cold fronts.

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
533. Cavin Rawlins
5:48 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Rain totals so far for Oregon and Washington

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
532. Cavin Rawlins
5:42 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Buoy 46005 was directly in the path of the storm



Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
531. Cavin Rawlins
5:35 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Shot 1



Shot 2

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
530. ShenValleyFlyFish
5:27 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Nice image of Black Sea storm from Turkish Sate Meteorological Service. It's an intresting site: Link
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
529. Cavin Rawlins
5:27 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
506. ShenValleyFlyFish 12:16 PM AST on January 03, 2008 Hide this comment.
Black Sea taking one heck of a pounding. At least 4 deaths from sinking ship more missing. Photos on BBC site awe inspiring. 456 or anyone able to drum up a satellite image of storm?


I ahve one that i will post shortly
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
528. Beachfoxx
4:54 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Hey everyone!

Happy New Year!

And I cordially ask everyone North of the Mason Dixon line to Please take your cold weather back soon! We are freezing here in Florida! LOL
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 157 Comments: 29385
527. LakeShadow
4:54 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
gotta go get kids from preK ...dentist would be fun in comparison, bbl too.
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134
526. Bonedog
4:52 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
off to the dentist be back later on :)
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
525. Bonedog
4:51 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
LOL Lake, they probably are and wiping there mouths with 100 dollar bills
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
524. Bonedog
4:50 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
here is the GFS hes obssesed over



Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
523. LakeShadow
4:49 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
I still think the oil tycoons are throwing back shots of crude oil...
:o$
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134
522. Bonedog
4:44 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Petroleum is considered "sweet" if it contains less than 0.5% sulfur compared to a higher level of sulfur in sour crude oil


the report said we declined by 4 million barrels instead of the forcasted 2 million :/
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
521. LakeShadow
4:42 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
Yeah he worships the GFS...
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134
520. LakeShadow
4:42 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
I was watching CNN and they were waiting for the inventory report for light, sweet crude...that must have been a bad report, eh?

But more importantly how do people know to classify the oil as sweet? Do they taste it? Some kind of Texas shooter...
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134
519. Bonedog
4:41 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
yea lake GFS has held a big east coast storm for three days worth of runs now :/
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
518. Bonedog
4:40 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
ah gotcha lake. same here it was 3 degrees at 8am this morning
Member Since: July 14, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 7418
517. LakeShadow
4:40 PM GMT on January 03, 2008
So theres a big storm that Mr. "holds-his-cards-to-his-chest" Weatherman is talking about around the 15th. He usually doesnt try to forecast that far off...sounds like it will be something else, eh?
Member Since: August 10, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2134

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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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