It Got Drier Last Week! HUH?

January 29, 2016
Drought and Cattle

Though the Mississippi fought floods and thunderstorms drenched the South this May of 2013, the US has gotten drier.

Incredibly, despite all the rainfall, 62% of the nation is dry and 48% is in drought conditions! Even with all the rainfall, almost half the nation is still suffering from prolonged drought.

48% of the U.S. is in drought conditions.

The problem is that after two solid years of dry weather, it’s going to take a lot of rain to break the drought. The parched soil soaks up any moisture quickly and needs even more. While there was heavy rainfall over the past two weeks, it has been concentrated in a few soggy areas. Most of the nation only received a day or two of showers or storms.

Basically, all the cold we didn’t receive this winter is finally plunging south. Cold air doesn’t hold much moisture. Where the cold air crashes into warm moist air from the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico, it rained. (Yes, Atlanta, I’m thinking of you and that 6 inches of rain you received. You needed webbed feet!) Where there was just cool air, it remained relatively dry.

2013 has been the quietest year for tornadoes in 60 years. Click to expand graph.

There is some good news. As I noted earlier last month, tornadoes are finicky and it has just been too cold to generate many storms. The same wedge of cold air that limited rainfall has also limited deadly thunderstorms. Normally we would have averaged 625 tornadoes by now and we have only had 237. This season has set a 60-year record and is in the lowest 10% of the history of tornado seasons.

Overall, it looks as if there should be enough rain for planting, once the weather warms up. But, look out. The soil is still thirsty and heat waves could cause some real problems. On the other hand, with the weather the way it has been lately, a nice warm heat wave sounds almost cozy.


About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.