Saturday, March 2, 2024

Southern Precipitation Boomerang


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Drought Monitor analyses on June 6, 2023, Oct. 24, 2023, then on Jan. 16, 2024. (Data: NDMC/NOAA/USDA)
Southern Precipitation Boomerang

We’ve talked about whiplashes in precipitation before, such as California and the West’s stunningly wet, snowy winter last year following years of drought. In the South, that might be more of a boomerang right now.

Last June, most of the region was drought-free. Then, the hottest summer on record in Louisiana and over a dozen Gulf Coast cities triggered the most widespread highest-level drought in Louisiana and Mississippi since 2000. What followed was Louisiana’s record wildfire year, parched ground and low Mississippi River levels that allowed a wedge of Gulf saltwater to ooze north.

This winter, however, the drought area was repeatedly soaked, due in part to an energized southern jet stream during a strong El Niño. Flash flood warnings have been issued the past few days from Texas to the Deep South, including some of the most drought-parched areas.

And that’s steadily eroding the drought. NOAA’s latest outlook suggests most of it will be at least “improved” or “removed” by spring. If this pattern continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was completely erased in the South by March. That means the South could go from no drought to the highest drought category to no drought again in the span of nine months.

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