WunderBlog Archive » Category 6™

Category 6 has moved! See the latest from Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson here.

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

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

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
Georgia Drought Series 2
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
Scenes from Lake Lanier, GA
Scenes from Lake Lanier, GA
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


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Happy New Year everyone! Great weather in Tampa 39 now.......lol
we need 5ft of snow to get us out of the drought.....lol
500. vortfix 9:54 AM CST on January 03, 2008
what implications does snow in Florida have on the thoery of Global warming.

Means absolutely nothing.
Just means there was snow in Florida.

Agreeing 100%

from BBC

Single trader behind oil record

The man behind the record rise in oil prices to $100 a barrel was a lone trader, seeking bragging rights and a minute of fame, market watchers say.

A single trader bid up the price by buying a modest lot and then sold it immediately at a loss, they said.

The New York Mercantile Exchange confirmed that US crude oil futures traded just once in triple figures.

But prices have since remained below that historic level and market analysts questioned the validity of the trade.

More: Link
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?
morning all...

GW and Fla... Rush Limbaugh apparently was going off on this and for some reason, people listen to him. So there's this rumor going around that GW is a big conspiracy...(the jury is still out on our ability to directly impact the climate changes of this planet in such a dramatic fashion, however climate change has been a part of the evolution of our planet since its birth and wont slow down or stop on account of anything we do)

The MELTING of the polar ice creates a cooling of the atmosphere...that cold air is now made it to Fla. It may feel colder, but thats polar ice melt that you feel...


src="https://afweather.afwa.af.mil/images/satellite/SYN_MSG000IR_L.JPG" width="517" height="525" alt="" />
Just means there was snow in Florida.

But it was warm snow!
what the heck.. cant get the image to load grrrrrrrrrrrr
the blog gods need appeasing... We have to sacrifice a troll...

hey bone, wazzup?
hey lake. hows things?
colder than what is humanly natural...
but its getting warmer...it 11 degrees now with a wind chill of -8.
Thanks Bone.
Hey Lake: what's up.
oil hits 100 dollars a barrell again!!!

watching it live
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?
ah gotcha lake. same here it was 3 degrees at 8am this morning
yea lake GFS has held a big east coast storm for three days worth of runs now :/
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...
Yeah he worships the GFS...
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 :/
I still think the oil tycoons are throwing back shots of crude oil...
here is the GFS hes obssesed over

LOL Lake, they probably are and wiping there mouths with 100 dollar bills
off to the dentist be back later on :)
gotta go get kids from preK ...dentist would be fun in comparison, bbl too.
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
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
Nice image of Black Sea storm from Turkish Sate Meteorological Service. It's an intresting site: Link
Shot 1

Shot 2

Buoy 46005 was directly in the path of the storm

Rain totals so far for Oregon and Washington

These cold air stratocumuli cloud cells are caused by the moistening and cooling effect of cold continental airmass that blow offshore behind cold fronts.

big mistake at NWS


for Houston anyways
456. Post 531. Is that of the Black Sea?

I assume so, but as stated before I'm a bit geographically challenged! LOL
Current Winds are rather briskly

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.
It's cool...at least I got #537! haha
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.
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.
-5 deg. wind chill here.
Thanks for images 456. How do you go about capturing and uploading them? Thought I had it figured out but obviously don't.
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.

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
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.
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.
Thanks 456. I printed (on paper) a copy of your instructions and will play around with it.

Evidence of the Florida Blizzard of 2008!

LOL...yeah the truck owner is in a t-shirt! ROFL!
He must be a yankee!
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.
Isn't everyone in Florida a Yankee deserter or escaped from Cuba?
Thanks for the update weather456
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...........

Hello and Good Afternoon,,,,,,,,
from outside boston


(-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
Isn't everyone in Florida a Yankee deserter or escaped from Cuba?

I think so....let me check my birth certificate..........
Says here on my certificate I am a minority person.
Born in Florida! LMAO!
I feel so lonely..........

ur welcome

but we have td10s in the south pacfic!
The begining of the parade!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Dvorak readings will begin shortly

New blog up . . .
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???
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!