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November’s Tropical Storm Sonya: the Bad and Good News

November 4, 2013

November's Tropical Storm Sonya

Credit: NASA
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Have you heard the saying, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good”? It must be about hurricanes.

There are times when these terrible storms can bring both good and bad news. We can see this with Tropical Storm Sonya in the first week of November.

As I write this, Tropical Storm Sonya is approaching Mexico. It is the eighteenth storm to roar through the East Pacific. Most of these storms swung out to sea but Sonya will be the fourth storm of the season to swing east and land in Mexico. Fortunately, it will weaken before it hits the coast. Unfortunately, the area has already been soaked from earlier storms. Authorities are preparing for floods and possible landslides. Our best wishes go out to our southern neighbors. They have had a terrible summer and need all the help they can get.

Yet this disaster for Mexico will bring much needed rain to the United States. For two, almost three, years over half of the US has baked in a terrible drought. Crops and cattle have suffered and the price of your food has gone up.

The US has been dry and needs rain. Click to enlarge this image.

When a tropical storm hits Mexico, it may stop being tropical, but it doesn’t stop being a storm. The rain moves north. This autumn, we have seen these storms flow into Texas and the Great Plains, bringing desperately needed rain. In early September, over half of the “lower 48” states were in drought. Now it is 34%, about a third. Much of this relief is due to the remnants of these storms.

Part of the remaining drought is in the Midwest, west of the Mississippi. Forecasts show that this area is exactly where the remnants of Tropical Storm Sonya are heading. It will bring much needed moisture to fields of newly planted winter wheat and most of the US ranchlands. World food prices will be better because of the four storms that have passed through Mexico.

Rainfall from the remnants of Tropical Storm Sonya will relieve some drought conditions in the US.

Weather is always complicated and filled with unexpected consequences. Even our ancestors knew that it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

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Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.

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