Thursday, November 3, 2016

The "Desert Southeast": Drought Intensifies In Alabama, Georgia

As I sit and write this Thursday morning, it's starting to rain outside my home in St. Albans, Vermont.
A rare, intense drought is hitting parts of Southeast
Image from U.S. Drought Monitor.  

We're going to get another half inch to an inch of rain today, which will further ease the drought in the Northeast.

Today's rain if affecting most of New York and New England, which has been the epicenter of a drought that developed in the spring and lasted all summer and fall.

This drought is far from over, but at least we're getting a little wetting.

The Northeast drought has been getting all the attention, but a worse one has taken shape in northern Alabama and Georgia.

They can't seem to catch a break, as all the rain storms have missed them this fall. Rains from Hurricane Matthew missed. Tropical systems often move inland from the Gulf of Mexico in the summer and fall, dumping torrential rains on the South.

Not this year.

The lack of rain has been building for months. Now, in the fall, a strong high pressure system has been pretty much stuck over the Southeast, deflecting rain away from the region. Worse, that high pressure system has been causing an incredibly long streak of record high temperatures.

The record warmth increases evaporation, making the drought intensify even faster. That dry, hot weather is expected to remain over the region for at least another week.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 75 percent of Alabama is in at least severe drought, and 14 percent is in exceptional drought, the highest category you can get on the drought scale.

No measureable rain  has fallen on Birmingham, Alabama since September 18. Only a trace fell there in October, a month that usually brings about 3.5 inches of rain. Temperatures in Birmingham in September and October were five to seven degrees warmer than normal.

The drought in the Southeast is worse than the one in New England. The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore has taken to calling the region the "Desert Southeast."

So far, the Southeast's principal crops, including cotton, peanuts and peaches, have not suffered too badly because the main growing regions are outside the worst drought zone, says the Insurance Journal. 

Still, other crops have suffered, and the normally green, wet region of the nation is having rare forest fires.

Unfortunately, drier than normal conditions are expected to continue through the winter in the Southeast, according to admittably dicey long range outlooks.

Let's hope that's wrong and plenty of winter rains hit the Southeast. (Lots of winter snow in New England wouldn't be too upsetting, either.)

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