USA Drought: 2nd biggest on record; “Cool & wet” State Fair of 2012?

62% of the contiguous USA covered by “moderate drought” in 2012

2nd highest percentage on record

“Mega droughts” of the 1930s & 1950s longer lasting

2013 Critical year for Midwest agriculture

Cooler & wetter than average – early outlook for the 2013 Minnesota State Fair

Patchy frost? Upper 30s possible in parts of northern Minnesota Friday morning

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Source: Twin Cities NWS

Drought 2012: We’re #2

The numbers for the 2012 drought are staggering. A full 62% of the lower 48 USA is in “moderate” or deeper drought as of this week in the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Source: U.S. Drought Monitor USDA & UNL

Looking back at the historical perspective from NOAA, it appears the only year with a higher percentage of drought was 1934, when a staggering 80% of the lower 48 states were mired in drought.

Here are the top 5 years and the percentage of the lower 48 states covered by moderate or worse drought.

1) Jul 1934, 80%

2) Aug 2012, 62%

3) Dec 1939, 60%

4) Jul 1954, 60%

5) Dec 1956, 58%

Another measure is to look at the area of severe or greater drought.

1) Jul 1934, 63%

2) Sep 1954, 50%

3) Dec 1956, 46%

4) Jul 2012, 45%

5) Aug 1936, 43%

2012: A one year drought…so far

As bad as the drought of 2012 is, keep in mind it’s only a 1 year drought…so far.

The droughts of the 1930s “Dust Bowl” and 1950s were multi-year “mega droughts.”

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Black Sunday” Source: NOAA

Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground elaborates.

An important fact to remember is that the 2012 drought is–so far–only a one-year drought. Recall that 2011 saw record rains that led to unprecedented flooding on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri Rivers. In contrast, the great droughts of the 1950s and 1930s were multi-year droughts.

The Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s lasted up to eight years in some places, with the peak years being 1934, 1936, and 1939 – 1940. Once the deep soil dries out, it maintains a memory of past drought years. This makes is easier to have a string of severe drought years. Since the deep soil this summer still maintains the memory of the very wet year of 2011, the 2012 drought will be easier to break than the Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s were.

2013: Critical year for farmers

Next year will be a critical year for the nation’s bread basket.

Will we see ample rainfall to recharge soils in the Midwest? Or will we continue to deepen an already significant drought scenario in the Midwest and Southern Plains?

This winter’s trend toward El Nino could deliver a wetter than average winter in the Southern Plains with abundant rainfall. That could help eat away at drought conditions in places like Texas and Oklahoma by next spring.

A milder than average winter in the Upper Midwest could mean soils may stay frost free longer this winter, and precip could favor rain instead of snow. That could help recharge soils some in the so called “vowel states” from Iowa to Ohio.

If weather patterns favor a wet spring and early summer, we may be able to dig out of drought in much of the central USA.

However, If the drought persists into 2013, we could deepen an already bad drought, and be on track for another “multi-year” drought in the Midwest.

2013 will be a critical year for agriculture in the Midwest.

Seeley Perspective: Beneficial rains this month

Here’s a preview from this week’s Weather Talk from my MPR colleague and UM Professor Dr. Mark Seeley.

Topic: Beneficial rainfall for some

The first half of August brought some significant rainfall to many areas of the state, and in somewhat heavy doses in places. Thunderstorms brought 1.56 inches to International Falls and 1.40 inches to Red Wing Dam on August 15th. Some areas south of the Twin Cities (New Prague, Farmington, Rosemount) also received over 1 inch from fast moving thunderstorms on the 15th. In addition some hail over 1 inch in diameter fell over western counties. Many observers have reported over 2 inches for the month so far, while some locations (Preston, Lanesboro, Caledonia, Grand Portage) have received over 3 inches. The rainfall so far this month has kept the drought stricken area from expanding in size this month.

Temperatures are averaging from 1 to 3 degrees F cooler than normal so far this month. For six consecutive days over August 9-14 daily temperatures were cooler than normal, a stretch of cooler than normal weather not seen since June 22-28, 2011 (15 months ago). Brimson, International Falls, Orr, and Embarrass have already reported overnight lows in the 30s F. Meanwhile at the Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole (Antarctica) it was -77 degrees F this week.

Despite cooler than normal temperatures, crops are rapidly maturing well ahead of the normal calendar pace. Corn will be ready for early harvest, while sugar beets are already being lifted in some places.

Topic: New Seasonal Climate Outlooks

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center issued new seasonal climate outlooks on Thursday (August 16th) covering the period from September to November. September is expected to be warmer than normal for much of the nation’s midsection. Over September to November Minnesota is expected to see above normal temperatures prevail and equal chances for above or below normal precipitation during this period.

NOAA also released a new Drought Outlook this week, covering the period through November 30th. The outlook calls for improvement in Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, southern Wisconsin, and northern Illinois. Unfortunately the outlook favors drought persistence in southwestern Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and southern Illinois.

You can hear more from Mark with Cathy Wurzer in the 6am hour of Morning Edition on MPR News stations on Friday mornings.

Minnesota State Fair 2013: Cooler & wetter than average?

I had to pinch myself today when I realized the Minnesota State Fair starts in 1 week!

It’s been a long, hot summer up until the past 2 weeks. When summer essentially stared on St. Patty’s day with the earliest 80 degree reading in Twin Cities history you knew it was going to be a long (6 month?) summer.

We’ve certainly enjoyed more than our share of heat with 26 days of 90 degree heat (the most since 27 days in 2007) so far. And the 2 days above 100 degrees were the most since the infamous summer of 1988 when we suffered through 4 days. You won’t hear any whining form the weather lab about the pleasantly cooler air wafting over Minnesota these days. I’m happy to give my AC unit (and electric bill) a long rest.

The early look at the Minnesota State Fair forecast suggests that we may see cooler and wetter than average conditions overall.

The GFS (which has been doing a better job lately after a bad run early this summer) suggests a cool 1st weekend for the Fair with highs probably in the 70s. A low pressure storm may swirl rain through Minnesota next Wednesday, and possibly linger into the Fair opening day Thursday. Cool Canadian high pressure may build in for the first weekend fo the Fair, which could mean cool, but sunny and pleasant weather with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s.

NOAAs CPC agrees.

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That kind of cool is perfect for the Fair in my book.

The following week is a long way out on the weather maps, but trends suggest it may warm back into the 80s with scattered thunder for the following week…with the potential for a shot at a “traditional” 90 degree temp for one day. Then another cooler air mass may move in by Labor Day weekend.

The GFS is painting a pretty wet picture overall for the fair…cranking out over 3″ of rain centered on the12 day Fair run.

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Again NOAA’s CPC supports the trend of a wetter pattern ahead.

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Source: NOAA/CPC

There will be plenty of really nice days at the Fair this year. Just be ready for a little rain and cool weather too.

I’m putting my money on anything hot “on a stick” this year.


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