Friday, January 25, 2013

U.S. Drought Status Update        
 Jay Grymes / WAFB Storm Team

You’ve probably heard the rumblings regarding the persistent drought across the U.S. in recent months. According to the Weekly U.S. Drought Monitor (, well over half of the “lower 48” (57.6%) is currently rated as experiencing drought.

In truth, this reflects a very modest reduction in the drought coverage over the contiguous U.S. compared to the drought extent over recent weeks. but the drought's duration is also a big part of the national story: based on estimates by the Drought Monitor, at least 50% of the “lower 48” has been in drought since late June 2012 (7 months), with the drought extending over as much as 65% of the nation during late September.

From the nation’s agricultural perspective, the on-going drought has been a huge problem, bordering on a disaster. Drought areas include almost all of the U.S. Plains (the nation’s “breadbasket”), most of the U.S. West, and a large portion of the nation’s Southeast. In addition, the lack of rains in the Missouri and upper Mississippi basins have not only plagued farmers in the fields, but have also resulted in unusually-low flows for “Old Man River,” disrupting transportation and delivery of a large proportion of the U.S.’s agricultural products.

While sections of the Bayou State have fallen under drought over this seven-month period, Louisiana as a whole -- including most of the WAFB viewing area -- have fared reasonably well. We did have a rather dry stretch during the fall, but for most WAFB communities the dry spell flip-flopped dramatically during December and early January. Indeed, many within the WAFB viewing area have endured near-record rainfall for this time of year over the past eight weeks. A number of sites in the region are reporting 20” to 25” of rain or more since December 1 -- more than three times the norm!

Yet a look at rainfall across the entire state shows that a number of southeastern parishes have missed out on the excessive winter rains. In fact, rains are running below normal since December 1 from sections of metro New Orleans to Galliano to Grand Isle to Boothville, with some locations in southeastern Louisiana reporting 70% or less of the normal rainfall for the recent eight week span.

This is a great example for us: even for a relatively small state like Louisiana, short-term weather and climatic differences can be quite large, and just because "it’s happening in your backyard” doesn’t mean that everyone in the Bayou State is experiencing the same circumstances!

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