A Dry Spring: Drought Expands In Texas And Florida, Pounding State Economies

By Jeff Spross on Mar 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm

According to the latest report from U.S. Drought Monitor, drought conditions expanded in Florida and West Texas last week.

While storms and heavy precipitation rolled into much of the eastern United States, several weeks of low rainfall have pushed Florida’s peninsula into “abnormally” — and in some areas “moderate” or “severe” — dry conditions. And much of Texas remains blanketed by “moderate” to “severe” drought, with significant areas sliding all the way into “extreme” and “exceptional.” The state’s climatologist has warned that if the drought persists through the summer, only the record cumulative dry spell Texas suffered in the 1950s would be worse.

The latest outlook shows drought conditions persisting in both states through the spring, and possibly expanding in California and Oregon as well. And the massive drought conditions that’ve been pummeling the midwest remain as brutal as ever, as Climate Central reported late last week:

Read the rest here.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for this update. I've been concerned about Texas drought. It looks as if things will continue to get worse, with some fluctuation, in coming decades.

Are atmospheric flow patterns favorable for summer extreme weather ...

... "each time one of these extremes struck, a strong wave train had developed in the atmosphere, circling the globe in mid-latitudes. These so-called planetary waves are well-known and a normal part of atmospheric flow. What is not normal is that the usually moving waves ground to a halt and were greatly amplified during the extreme events. Looking into the physics behind this, we found it is due to a resonance phenomenon. Under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. The wind patterns form a regular wave train, with six, seven or eight peaks and troughs going once around the globe". Using a complex theoretical mathematical description of the atmosphere and 32 years of historical weather data, the scientists showed that human-caused global warming might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years.

Earth's atmosphere has two fundamental patterns. One is a series of wave-like troughs and ridges in the jet stream called planetary (or Rossby) waves, which march west-to-east at about 15 - 25 mph around the globe. The other pattern behaves more like a standing wave, with no forward motion, and is created by the unequal heating of the equatorial regions compared to the poles, modulated by the position of the continents and oceans. A number of papers have been published showing that these two patterns can interact and resonate in a way that amplifies the standing wave pattern, causing the planetary waves to freeze in their tracks for weeks, resulting in an extended period of extreme heat or flooding, depending upon where the high-amplitude part of the wave lies. But what the Potsdam Institute scientists found is that because human-caused global warming is causing the Arctic to heat up more than twice as rapidly as the rest of the planet, the two patterns are interacting more frequently during the summer.

Humans tend to think linearly--one plus one equals two. However, the atmosphere is fundamentally non-linear. What may seem to be modest changes in Earth's climate can trigger unexpected resonances that will amplify into extreme changes--cases where one plus one equals four, or eight, or sixteen. In some cases, when you rock the boat too far, it won't simply roll a bit more, it will reach a tipping point where it suddenly capsizes. Similarly, human-caused global warming is capable of pushing the climate past a tipping point where we enter a new climate regime, one far more disruptive than what we are used to. [emphasis mine]

Here's the latest picture of US drought. It looks as if food prices will keep going up.

With Drought Season Off to a Bad Start, Scientists Forecast Another...

U.S. Drought Monitor map from March 19, 2013,

courtesy of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center


Drought conditions in more than half of the United States have slipped into a pattern that climatologists say is uncomfortably similar to the most severe droughts in recent U.S. history, including the 1930s Dust Bowl ...

... the entire year will be drier than last year, even if spring and summer rainfall and temperatures remain the same. If rainfall decreases and temperatures rise, as climatologists are predicting will happen this year, the drought could be even more severe.

The federal researchers also say there is less than a 20 percent chance the drought will end in the next six months.

Large swaths of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana—which entered last year's major agricultural growing season with very moist conditions—are now battling severe and extreme drought as farmers get ready to plant their spring crops.

The outlooks for rainfall and temperature are similarly bleak.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center forecast last week that Texas, Oklahoma and the Pacific Northwest will likely get less rainfall in 2013 than in 2012, and that the entire nation will experience a warmer summer than last year. [emphasis mine]

Good news, moderate drought in US is below 50%.

U.S. Drought Falls Below 50 Percent for First Time in 10 Months

The area of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse fell below 50 percent for the first time since June 19, 2012, according to the latest edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor ...

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