The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of recently reported ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Drought in the United States Grows Worse
Dear Diary. A few days ago, I noted a disturbing weather pattern that had the long-term western drought, La Niña, and a recurring climate change related dipole written all over it:
This week dry weather has led to high fire danger across portions of the Plains and Midwest:
There is a little good news from meteorological models this week. The highly amplified dipole pattern should break by the end of next week, allowing wet systems to roll into the Pacific Northwest and move into the Plains, where some rain and even snow should fall during late October. Whether or not this wetter pattern will hold into November is unknown, of course:
The fine folks at the Washington Post have also noticed how dry conditions are getting this fall. Here is their report for our main topic of today:
More than 80 percent of the U.S. is facing troubling dry conditions
There has not been more widespread abnormally dry and drought conditions in the U.S. since at least 2000.
By Zach Rosenthal
October 14, 2022
Sprinklers irrigate a field in Holtville, Calif., Sept. 20. (Aude Guerrucci/Reuters)
The most recent update to the U.S. Drought Monitor revealed a startling figure: Nearly 82 percent of the country is facing at least abnormally dry conditions — the highest percentage since the drought monitor launched in 2000.
Severe to exceptional drought conditions remain common in the West, which has been battling its driest period in the past 1,200 years. But the drought is now far more widespread, with unusual dryness continuing in parts of the Northeast and expanding extreme drought conditions in the Midwest.
Here is a look at drought conditions across the United States, from low-end droughts all the way to rare “exceptional” drought conditions.
The West — defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor as the states of Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California — is again seeing widespread drought conditions, though there have been slight improvements since a year ago, when all but 2.57 percent of the region was under unusual dry conditions. Today, that figure sits at 5.23 percent.
These maps illustrate the seriousness of the western drought
California is ground zero of the drought in the West. The entire state is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions. Almost the entire state might be facing severe drought conditions if not for the much-needed rain brought to parts of far-Southern California by Hurricane Kay in the first half of September.
A little over 40 percent of the state is seeing extreme drought conditions — stretching from the Los Angeles area to the Central Valley all the way up into the Shasta Cascades and southern Oregon. The last three water years — which run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 — have been the driest in California’s history.
Several other Western states — Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, and Utah — are entirely in drought. In Utah, more than 51 percent of the state is seeing extreme drought conditions, dropping water levels in the Great Salt Lake to record lows for the second year in a row, according to local reporting.
Drought relief in the West is not likely any time soon, though some rainfall is expected in parts of Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico over the weekend. In general, though, the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, expects drought conditions to persist unabated.
Corn struggles with drought in Nance County, Neb., on Aug. 22. (Karen Braun/Reuters)
Less than 10 percent of the High Plains — defined as Colorado, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas — is drought-free, with the worst of the drought impacting the latter two states.
In Nebraska, no part of the state is drought-free and over 98 percent of the state is seeing at least moderate drought conditions. Over the past three months, the percentage of the state under severe drought has nearly doubled, while areas of exceptional drought — the worst level on the drought monitor’s scale — have expanded to 11.49 percent.
Firefighters and farmers in Nebraska have been battling wildfires, including the Bovee Fire, which has burned more than 18,900 acres — torching a campground and killing at least one person, according to reporting from NPR.
Almost all of Kansas has seen less than 70 percent of normal precipitation over the past 90 days, fueling worsening drought conditions.
In Kansas, 27 percent of the state is under exceptional drought, up from just 1 percent three months earlier. The worst of the drought is concentrated in the state’s south, including in Wichita. In the past 90 days, nearly all of Kansas has seen significantly below-normal rainfall.
Current forecasts suggest little-to-no rain (or snow) is expected in the High Plains over the next week or so.
The South — which the U.S. Drought Monitor defines as Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee — has seen drought conditions significantly worsen over the past year. One year ago, less than half of the region was under a drought. Now, just under 6 percent of the region is drought-free.
By far the worst of the drought is in Oklahoma, where nearly 100 percent of the state is under a severe drought. Just over 85 percent of the state is seeing severe drought, while nearly 30 percent is experiencing exceptional drought. On Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) issued an executive order intended to help farmers sustain their businesses.
“As our farmers and ranchers continue navigating unprecedented challenges brought on by this year’s extreme drought, it is our responsibility as leaders to offer assistance and support wherever we can,” Stitt said in a press release. “Today’s action builds on my administration’s drought relief efforts and will allow for more commercial hay loads to come into Oklahoma to meet the demand of Oklahoma producers.”
‘The worst we’ve seen’: Ranchers threatened by historic heat and drought
Most of Texas is still facing drought conditions, though they have eased in severity over the past three months, aided by flooding rainfall in August. Elsewhere in the South, all of Arkansas is seeing drought conditions, closing boat ramps at the Lee Creek Reservoir, which has dipped to 78 percent capacity, according to local reporting.
In Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, drought conditions are widespread but not severe.
Some rainfall is likely in Texas and parts of Oklahoma late Saturday into Sunday, with wet conditions pushing into Arkansas as well. While helpful, the rain is unlikely to end the drought.
Nearly 90 percent of the state is experiencing unusual dryness as drought conditions continue to worsen.
While most people wouldn’t associate Hawaii with drought, nearly 90 percent of the state is abnormally dry, and the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook expects drought conditions to persist and worsen this month. Such conditions are set to continue “across [the] Hawaii Islands given a strong dry signal driven by ongoing La Niña conditions,” according to the outlook.
Drought conditions have worsened since the start of the year, when just 17 percent of the state was seeing any sort of drought. Over the past three months alone, the percentage of the state seeing severe drought has climbed from 16 percent to 40 percent.
The summer drought’s hefty toll on American crops
In the rest of the United States, there are pockets of drought, but nothing as regionally widespread. In the Southeast, nearly all of Alabama, Georgia and parts of the Florida Panhandle are seeing abnormal dryness, with pockets of moderate to severe drought.
Drought conditions have expanded rather quickly in the region. The percentage of Georgia seeing abnormal dryness shot up from nearly 50 percent this week, with Alabama seeing a change from 64 percent to 98 percent in the same time frame. Little rainfall is expected in these areas over the next week, meaning drought conditions will likely worsen.
Another pocket of drought is in the Northeast, where extreme drought around Boston, an area that has been unusually dry for much of the summer. Still, the drought has significantly eased since August, when extreme drought overtook more than 24.5 percent of Massachusetts; that figure is down to just 3.5 percent.
Low-water restrictions on the barge loads make for cautious navigation through the Mississippi River as evidenced by this tow passing between the river bridges in Vicksburg, Miss., on Oct. 11. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
In the Midwest, drought conditions are fairly widespread, though generally sub-severe. An exception is Missouri, where more than 37 percent of the state is seeing severe drought conditions, with pockets of extreme drought in the state’s southwest corner near Joplin. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is encouraging the public to submit reports detailing drought conditions in their area.
Drought conditions have overtaken all of Iowa, as well as much of Minnesota. Both states have pockets of extreme and severe drought.
In these states, as well as in parts of the High Plains and South, worsening drought has lowered the flow of the Mississippi River to its lowest level in at least a decade, slowing barge traffic. Little drought relief is expected in the coming weeks anywhere in the Mississippi River basin.
Mississippi River levels are dropping too low for barges to float
More drought news:
Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:
Here is some more September 2022 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”