Top U.S. weather story of 2009: drought hits a 10-year low

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 07:05 PM GMT em 30 de Dezembro de 2009

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The weather gods were unusually kind to the U.S. in 2009, as the nation had no hurricane landfalls, a relatively quiet tornado season, no billion-dollar floods, and the lowest drought footprint of the decade by year's end. According to insurance giant Munich Re, the four costliest 2009 weather disasters in the U.S., not including droughts, were:

$2.5 billion: February 10 - 13 Severe weather and tornado outbreak
$2.0 billion: June 10 - 18 Severe weather and tornado outbreak
$1.7 billion: April 9 - 11 Severe weather and tornado outbreak
$1.5 billion: March 25 - 26 Severe weather and tornado outbreak


Figure 1. Lake Whitney, Texas in February 2009 (left) and July 2009 (right), after exceptional drought conditions gripped South Central Texas. Image credit: wunderphotographer Icheney44.

Costliest U.S. weather disaster of 2009: the Texas drought
The costliest U.S. weather disaster in 2009 was the Texas drought. According to preliminary estimates, the agricultural losses from the Texas drought will cost close to $4 billion. The drought actually began in 2007 - 2008, and at the beginning of 2009 (Figure 2), much of Texas was already experiencing "exceptional drought"--the highest level of drought classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor. By summer, much below-average rainfall and scorching triple-digit heat caused the exceptional drought region to expand over a large region of South Central Texas. However, by September, the southern branch of the jet stream became more active, as it typically does during strong El Niño events in the Eastern Pacific, putting southern Texas in the path of a series of drought-busting rain storms that continued into the winter. By December, just a few spots of moderate to severe drought remained in Texas. While the short-term drought is over, longer-term drought remains in Texas. Area lakes have seen only modest rises, and will take months to show significant improvements. Lake Corpus Christi was just 33% of capacity on December 26, and other South Central Texas lakes and reservoirs were between 59% and 100% of capacity. With El Niño conditions expected to continue through winter and spring, there is a good chance that Texas will enter summer 2010 free of both short and long-term drought, though.


Figure 2. What a difference a year makes: Texas began the year with exceptional drought conditions over a small region, which expanded to cover a large portion of the state in the summer. Fall and winter rains broke the drought, and by December only a few small spots of drought remained over Texas. The Southeast U.S. also began the year with widespread drought conditions, which eased by summer. However, drought conditions developed over the Desert Southwest, including most of Arizona. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Top U.S. weather story of 2009: drought at a 10-year low
As of December 2009, the U.S. was free of "exceptional drought" for the first time since June 2008, and had the lowest levels of the two highest drought categories--"extreme" and "exceptional"--since June 2005. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor archive, the 4.24% of the country experiencing severe or higher drought conditions in December 2009 was the lowest U.S. drought footprint of the decade (Figure 3). The previous low was 4.57%, in November 2005. This is very good news, since droughts typically cost the U.S. an average of $6 - $8 billion per year, and are our costliest weather-related disasters, according to FEMA. For comparison, Floods cause an average damage of $2.4 billion per year, and hurricanes, $1 - $5 billion per year.


Figure 3. Areal coverage of drought over the Contiguous U.S. from January 2000 to December 2009. Dark red colors are the highest level of drought, "exceptional"; bright red colors include the the next highest level of drought, "extreme (D3); orange colors include the next highest level of drought, "severe" (D2); light orange colors include next highest level of drought conditions, "moderate" (D1); and yellow colors include the lowest level of drought conditions, "Abnormally Dry" (D0). At the end of 2009, the Contiguous U.S. was experiencing its lowest drought footprint of the decade. Image credit: U.S. Drought Portal, National Integrated Drought Information System.

Drought is not increasing in the U.S.
Global warming theory predicts that although global precipitation should increase in a warmer climate, droughts will also increase in intensity, areal coverage, and frequency (Dai et al., 2004). This occurs because when the normal variability of weather patterns brings a period of dry weather to a region, the increased temperatures due to global warming will intensify drought conditions by causing more evaporation and drying up of vegetation. Increased drought is my number one concern regarding climate change for both the U.S. and the world over the next forty years. Two of the three costliest U.S. weather disasters since 1980 have been droughts--the droughts of 1988 and 1980, which cost $71 billion and $55 billion, respectively. The heat waves associated with these droughts claimed over 17,000 lives, according to the National Climatic Data Center publication, Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters. Furthermore, the drought of the 1930s Dust Bowl, which left over 500,000 people homeless and devastated large areas of the Midwest, is regarded to be the third costliest U.S. weather disaster on record, behind Katrina and the 1988 drought. (Ricky Rood has an excellent book on the Dust Bowl that he recommends in his blog post from January). However, despite significantly warmer temperatures over the U.S. over the past 40 years, drought has not increased, according to the U.S. Climate Extremes Index (blue bars, Figure 4). The portion of the U.S. experiencing abnormal drought and exceptionally wet conditions has remained nearly constant at 10% over the past century. A recent paper by Andreadis et al., 2006, summed up 20th century drought in the U.S.: "Droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the country over the last century. The main exception is the Southwest and parts of the interior of the West, where, notwithstanding increased precipitation (and in some cases increased soil moisture and runoff), increased temperature has led to trends in drought characteristics that are mostly opposite to those for the rest of the country especially in the case of drought duration and severity, which have increased."


Figure 4. The Climate Extremes Index for January through November for drought (the December stats are not yet available, but the Jan - Nov numbers will not be much different). The worst U.S. droughts on record occurred in the 1930s and 1950s. There has been no trend in the amount of the U.S. covered by drought conditions (blue bars) or by abnormally moist conditions (red bars) over the past century. About 10% of the U.S. is typically covered by abnormally dry or wet conditions (black lines). Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

References
Andreadis, K. M. Lettenmaier, D. P., "Trends in 20th century drought over the continental United States", Geo. Res. Letters 33, 10, L10403, DOI 10.1029/2006GL025711

Dai A., K.E. Trenberth, and T. Qian, 2004: A global data set of Palmer Drought Severity Index for 18702002: Relationship with soil moisture and effects of surface warming", J. Hydrometeorol., 5, 11171130.

Gleason, K.L., J.H. Lawrimore, D.H. Levinson, T.R. Karl, and D.J. Karoly, 2008: "A Revised U.S. Climate Extremes Index", J. Climate, 21, 2124-2137.

Next post
Have a great rest of the decade, everyone, and I'll be back next decade with a new post on the top global weather story of 2009 (yes, I realize that the end of the decade is really on December 31, 2010, but I'll go with the flow on this! I want to thank all of you who helped out the Portlight charity cause this year, everyone who uploaded a wunderphoto, and everyone who participated in the great community we've built here at Wunderground! I look forward to 2010.

Jeff Masters

Lake Travis 2009 Drought (allford)
Over 30 feet below normal Lake Travis near Spicewood Tx is just a river bed.
Lake Travis 2009 Drought
Drought (GaryVA)
Most of Texas has been under serious drought conditions for about a year and a half. Much of the state is under Extreme Drought conditions. The agricultural/ranching/rural areas of the county are most affected, as the drought has a direct and significant impact on the livelihood of those making their living in a way dependent on nature. The importance of rain to daily life is reflected in this sign at a church in rural George West, Texas, in Live Oak, County.
Drought

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Quoting jipmg:
The front moving into texas is what will bring mid 30s into miami


Just be prepared for frezing temps, especially away from the coast in Broward/Dade Counties. Thankfully, this does not happen very often.
Member Since: Agosto 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
1962. aquak9
wonder if melwerle will drop by- she shoulda felt this one

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1961. jipmg
The front moving into texas is what will bring mid 30s into miami
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Dallas-Ft Worth, the Southern Plains and the Deep South, meet the Siberian/Arctic Plunge:


Member Since: Agosto 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
1959. aquak9
awww hush, SSI. You know I'm gonna complain whenever it gets below 60º...and with every ten degree drop, the complaining expands exponentially.
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Hello, been awhile since I've been on the blog, just wanted to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy & Safe 2010.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Region: SOLOMON ISLANDS
Geographic coordinates: 8.815S, 157.213E
Magnitude: 6.5 Mw
Depth: 10 km
Universal Time (UTC):3 Jan 2010 21:48:06
Time near the Epicenter:4 Jan 2010 08:48:06
Local standard time in your area: 3 Jan 2010 21:48:06
Location with respect to nearby cities:
89 km (55 miles) SSE (153 degrees) of Gizo, Solomon Islands
217 km (135 miles) WSW (247 degrees) of Dadali, Solomon Islands
247 km (154 miles) SSE (165 degrees) of Chirovanga, Solomon Islands
309 km (192 miles) WNW (283 degrees) of HONIARA, Solomon Islands
1102 km (684 miles) E (87 degrees) of PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea


Aussie, what's the peak month of your cane season down there? :)
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its droppin now.. here we go.. probably close to 20.. Just my opinion
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TROPICAL CYCLONE WATCH

TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 4
Issued by the BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY, DARWIN
at 5:00 am CST [3:30 am WST] Monday 4 January 2010

A Cyclone WATCH continues for a developing tropical low for coastal areas from
Kalumburu to Point Stuart and Cape Don to Cape Fourcroy.

At 3:30 am CST [2:00 am WST] a Tropical Low was estimated to be
120 kilometres west southwest of Darwin and
65 kilometres northwest of Daly River Mouth and
is currently slow moving over the Timor Sea.

The low may move further into the Timor Sea away from the coast and develop into
a tropical cyclone in the next 30 to 48 hours.

GALES are not expected within coastal areas within the next 24 hours, however
GALES may develop later if the low develops into a Tropical Cyclone.

Details of Tropical Low at 3:30 am CST [2:00 am WST]:

.Centre located near...... 12.9 degrees South 129.9 degrees East
.Location accuracy........ within 55 kilometres
.Recent movement.......... slow moving
.Wind gusts near centre... 85 kilometres per hour
.Severity category........ below cyclone intensity
.Central pressure......... 999 hectoPascals

The next advice will be issued by 11:00 am CST Monday 04 January [9:30 am WST
Monday 04 January].


SEVERE WEATHER WARNING
for Damaging Winds and Heavy Rainfall
for people in the Darwin-Daly and Arnhem Districts.
Issued at 5:00 am CST Monday 4 January 2010

Synoptic Situation: At 3:30 am CST a developing TROPICAL LOW 999 hPa was located
near the west coast of the Top End near latitude 12.9S, longitude 129.9E, about
120 kilometres west southwest of Darwin, and is slow moving. The low may move
further into the Timor Sea away from the coast and develop into a tropical
cyclone in the next 30 to 48 hours. An active monsoon trough also lies over the
Top End.

Heavy monsoonal rain currently falling over the Darwin-Daly and Arnhem Districts
is expected to continue and may cause significant stream rises and flooding of
low lying areas, particularly in the northern and western Top End.

Squally winds associated with showers and storms are expected to cause damaging
wind gusts up to 90 km/h over the northern and western Top End on Monday.

A Tropical Cyclone Advice is also current for this system - telephone 1300 659
211 [NT] or 1300 659 210 [WA].


The Northern Territory Emergency Service advises that people should secure loose
outside objects and seek shelter when the conditions deteriorate. Driving
conditions may be hazardous - avoid flooded roads and watercourses.

The next warning will be issued by 11:00 am CST Monday 04 January.

Member Since: Setembro 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15937
1951. jipmg
Holy cow, its cloudy, yet the termperature is dropping like a freaken rock..

It was 60 an hour ago, now its 53.. this is miami
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Region: SOLOMON ISLANDS
Geographic coordinates: 8.815S, 157.213E
Magnitude: 6.5 Mw
Depth: 10 km
Universal Time (UTC):3 Jan 2010 21:48:06
Time near the Epicenter:4 Jan 2010 08:48:06
Local standard time in your area: 3 Jan 2010 21:48:06
Location with respect to nearby cities:
89 km (55 miles) SSE (153 degrees) of Gizo, Solomon Islands
217 km (135 miles) WSW (247 degrees) of Dadali, Solomon Islands
247 km (154 miles) SSE (165 degrees) of Chirovanga, Solomon Islands
309 km (192 miles) WNW (283 degrees) of HONIARA, Solomon Islands
1102 km (684 miles) E (87 degrees) of PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea
Member Since: Setembro 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15937
Region:SOLOMON ISLANDS
Geographic coordinates:8.912S, 157.307E
Magnitude:7.2 Mw
Depth: 30 km
Universal Time (UTC): 3 Jan 2010 22:36:30
Time near the Epicenter:4 Jan 2010 09:36:30
Local standard time in your area: 3 Jan 2010 22:36:30
Location with respect to nearby cities:
103 km (64 miles) SSE (151 degrees) of Gizo, Solomon Islands
213 km (132 miles) WSW (243 degrees) of Dadali, Solomon Islands
260 km (162 miles) SSE (163 degrees) of Chirovanga, Solomon Islands
297 km (184 miles) WNW (282 degrees) of HONIARA, Solomon Islands
1111 km (690 miles) E (88 degrees) of PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea
Member Since: Setembro 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15937
Record low for West Palm Beach on Jan. 4 is 36 set in 2002. With today’s cloud cover (which may have contributed to a record for the “lowest” high temperature today) it may curtail radiational cooling and we could miss setting a new record. A better chance for a new record is Tuesday morning. Forecast low 34…current record 37 established in 2001.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Kind of funny really. Driving south from Georgia on I75 it goes from "Cotton Pickin' COLD out thar ain't it? to "Nice Summer day, EH?" to "Dios mio, es muy frio, no?".


Is that Spanish for "Frikken Cold"?
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1946. code1
Could be Orca, I just know there are masses of them in Destin now. Have a friend who lives on the water in BC. Beautiful country up there.

True PCola! If we saw it coming down, we would know it though. LOL
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Most of your snowbirds are from Quebec and or Eastern Canada (feel free to keep them)... 46 is a early spring day.... -20 is cold.


Kind of funny really. Driving south from Georgia on I75 it goes from "Cotton Pickin' COLD out thar ain't it? to "Nice Summer day, EH?" to "Dios mio, es muy frio, no?".
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Here I will try to heat the place up some....

Taco :0)
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:

Nicevile Florida.. close to pensacola.. u located in Pcola or?



West side by the Naval Air Station.
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Quoting code1:
Am thinking there are far more Canucks in FL than vice versa Orca. LOL They were even out and about in short sleeves in 46F temps today! Brrrr

Local met on WEAR3 TV in P'Cola just said "possibility" (stressed that) of the s word for later in the week. Would be very cool to see snow on the beaches!


Most of your snowbirds are from Quebec and or Eastern Canada (feel free to keep them)... 46 is a early spring day.... -20 is cold.
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1941. IKE
Already down to 39.9...low so far.
Member Since: Junho 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting code1:
Would be very cool to see snow on the beaches!


How could you tell?
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1939. code1
Am thinking there are far more Canucks in FL than vice versa Orca. LOL They were even out and about in short sleeves in 46F temps today! Brrrr

Local met on WEAR3 TV in P'Cola just said "possibility" (stressed that) of the s word for later in the week. Would be very cool to see snow on the beaches!
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A WIND CHILL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 10 AM EST MONDAY.

SLIGHTLY COLDER TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED TONIGHT ALONG WITH WINDS OF 5 TO 10 MPH MUCH OF THE NIGHT. TEMPERATURES ACROSS INTERIOR AREAS WILL RANGE FROM THE UPPER 20S TO LOWER 30S... WITH READINGS IN THE MID 30S ACROSS THE METRO PALM BEACH AND NAPLES AREAS AND MID 30S TO AROUND 40 ACROSS THE BROWARD METRO AREAS.

WIND CHILLS WILL DROP BELOW 35 DEGREES FOR 3 OR MORE HOURS IN THE ADVISORY AREA TONIGHT. MINIMUM WIND CHILL VALUES AS LOW AS THE UPPER 20S ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS INTERIOR LOCATIONS AS WELL AS IN METRO PALM BEACH COUNTY AND NAPLES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS CAN LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS... MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:

I believe that jet needs to dive a little more south to bring sum snow for the gulf coast.. that would b nice if it does.. we will see though
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10-day forecast:
Local Text Forecast for
West Palm Beach, FL

Jan 3 Tonight
Mainly cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 34F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.
Jan 4 Tomorrow
Partly cloudy skies. High 61F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph.
Jan 4 Tomorrow night
Mainly clear skies. Cold. Low around 35F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph.
Jan 5 Tuesday
A few clouds. Highs in the upper 50s and lows in the mid 30s.
Jan 6 Wednesday
Considerable cloudiness. Highs in the upper 50s and lows in the low 40s.
Jan 7 Thursday
Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 60s and lows in the mid 50s.
Jan 8 Friday
Mostly cloudy, chance of showers. Highs in the upper 60s and lows in the mid 40s.
Jan 9 Saturday
Cloudy. Highs in the low 60s and lows in the mid 40s.
Jan 10 Sunday
Partly cloudy. Highs in the mid 60s and lows in the low 50s.
Jan 11 Monday
Times of sun and clouds. Highs in the upper 60s and lows in the mid 50s.
Jan 12 Tuesday
Considerable cloudiness. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the upper 50s.
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Victoria BC Canada

Ok gotcha..
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:

Ocra.. where do u live?


Victoria BC Canada
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Quoting Orcasystems:
OK, I know its cold in Florida... and its warmer here.... but stop it already, there is no need to move all the way up here.



License Holder is from the Mercedes Benz dealer in Sarasota.

Ocra.. where do u live?
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OK, I know its cold in Florida... and its warmer here.... but stop it already, there is no need to move all the way up here.



License Holder is from the Mercedes Benz dealer in Sarasota.
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hope ya'll like these maps!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Hey Panhandle! Where are you located?

Nicevile Florida.. close to pensacola.. u located in Pcola or?
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1927. IKE
Defuniak Springs,FL....forecast....

Thursday: A slight chance of rain and snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Thursday Night: A 40 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 34.
Member Since: Junho 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858

ohhh ba hum bug!!
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Hey Panhandle! Where are you located?
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1924. IKE
Down to 41.9.
Member Since: Junho 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
wow i had a pretty image of a map.. but it didnt work..lol i will find another one ;)
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Quoting taco2me61:


I would agree with what your saying "as of right Now"...

By tomorrow it will all change and or be different....
Don't we Love the Weather.....

Taco :0)

yap.. gotta love mother nature.. ;)
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:

as of right now..


I would agree with what your saying "as of right Now"...

By tomorrow it will all change and or be different....
Don't we Love the Weather.....

Taco :0)
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as of right now..
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Is Winter Really the Longest Season?


Believe it or not, the Northern Hemisphere's winter is its shortest season, if only by a few days. Winter lasts about 89 days in length, while summer has about 94 days.


Lying behind this is the geometry of earth's orbit about the sun. Enough it is to say that, because Earth's nearest approach to the sun happens on Jan. 2, EST. Its higher orbital speed scoots it through the winter quarter of orbit quicker than that of the other three seasons.


Flip side of the coin is that summer is the longest season in the Northern Hemisphere thanks to Earth's lazier pace on the corresponding leg of its journey.


Now, for those who happen to live 'down under,' in the Southern Hemisphere, then the facts will back up any claim of winter being 'too long.'
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1916. aquak9
1912- wow ike, they're talking breaking records and everything. Even trying to sound conservative this far out...looks like they can give that up.
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Regional
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Heavy snow, freezing temps hit New England, midwest

Video
Sun Jan 3, 4:59AM PT - AP 1:35 | 53609 views

From below-zero temperatures in the upper midwest to deep snow in New England, winter is coming on strong in the early days of 2010. (Jan. 3)
Member Since: Agosto 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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