The US Drought Monitor which was prepared on October 11th and released on Thursday October 13th showed that Exceptional Drought conditions (D4 Level) have expanded across parts of the Southeast.
Current Drought Situation
According to the US Drought Monitor, the Exceptional Drought (D4) as shown in the deep red has expanded south and west across parts of northwestern Georgia and into northeastern Alabama. D4 drought is the most serious level of drought. D4 conditions also extend into three counties of far southeastern Tennessee. Surrounding the Exceptional Drought is a larger area of Extreme Drought (D3), shown as the brighter red and Severe Drought (D2), areas outlined in orange, across northern Alabama and Georgia as well as southeastern Tennessee.
The graphic below shows conditions on September 20th and how the coverage of the D3 and D2 conditions were less widespread even a few weeks ago.
The graphic below focuses on Alabama and Georgia and shows the expansion of the drought from September 20th to October 11th.
While conditions are concerning, thankfully this region has seen some rainfall over the past two months…otherwise it would be worse. The rainfall accumulation in the past 60 days (ending October 13th) shows in general roughly 2 to 6 inches of rain (as shown in the greens) has occurred across much of the area. There have been some pockets of only 1 – 2 inches of rainfall however shown as the deeper blues.
When comparing the rainfall received to normal rainfall amounts for this time of year, areas of orange and red pop across a good part of the southeast US. The areas are roughly 25 to 50% of normal rainfall amounts which has helped to fuel the drought.
Other considerations with a Drought
In addition to precipitation deficits, individuals, which include state climatologists, use other data sources to evaluate the drought situation. These sources comprise of water levels, soil moisture and vegetation growth. For more information the US Drought Monitor has a Classification Scheme.
Unfortunately the short term and seasonal outlooks do not look promising for rainfall. Through the end of October, the atmospheric pattern will continue to provide mainly dry conditions for the Ohio Valley much of the Southeast and into the lower Mississippi River Valley.
Looking through the remainder of the year, the Southern Plains into the Southeast US shows dryer signals in the weather pattern. This does not mean this area will not receive any rainfall. What it highlights is the general trend will be below normal in precipitation for the three month period of October through December. Thus for many areas, the drought will persist.
Impacts in Alabama and Georgia
Those in Alabama and Georgia are already experiencing impacts of the drought. On October 12, 2016, Alabama Governor Bentley signed a Drought Emergency Declaration, for 46 counties to ban burning. The remaining of Alabama counties have been placed under a Fire Alert. The declaration, often referred to as a ‘No Burn Order’, prohibits all outdoor burning for 46 counties in north and central Alabama. The order is effective as of 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 12, 2016. For more information about the regulations of an Alabama Drought Emergency see the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Across Georgia, according to a press release by Georgia Forestry Commission on September 26, 2016, burn permits issued by the Georgia Forestry Commission are required for any outdoor burning in the state. The goal is to help prevent wildfires and problems generated by smoke. Georgia Forestry Commission expects the deepening drought to impact this process..
Finally, a recent story by WSBTV- Atlanta highlighted that area ranchers in northern Georgia are experiencing the impacts with dried stock ponds and dying pastures. Ranchers are providing hay and supplemental feed due to the poor pasture conditions. Other ranchers have sold cattle.
Everyone can help conserve water during a drought. Some tips from the ready.gov site include for indoor activities: turn off the water when brushing your teeth, avoid flushing the toilet unless necessary, take shorter showers, only run the dishwasher when full, and do not unnecessarily leave the water running while washing and rinsing dishes. With outdoor activities, use commercial car washes that recycle water, limit outdoor watering and considering only watering trees and shrubs which are more expensive to replace. If you need to water, do so in the morning when winds are lighter and temperatures are cooler as less evaporation will occur.
Since wildfires are more prevalent during a drought, be cautious with open flames and anything that may cause a spark. If your smoke, do not through your cigarette butt out the window, instead dispose of it in a safe manor.
The team at WxIntegrations will continue to provide relevant information and resources to help you better understand and prepare by incorporating weather impacts into your planning and response.