Can You Hear the Fat Lady?

While rains this winter filled many reservoirs in the Southeast and drought conditions have diminished, the fat lady still hasn’t sung. In our case, the fat lady is our groundwater. Groundwater levels for many areas are still lagging. For example, this well in the upstate of SC has set a new record low and still has not recovered since the start of the 1998 -2002 drought.

As I have said before, droughts are the economic version of a recession. They are hard to know when they first occur and hard to know exactly when they are over. So will the drought get worse this summer? Here are a couple of climatological indicators of whether the drought will continue.

1. The Eastern Equatorial Pacific Ocean Temperature. Believe it or not, the oscillation of this ocean temperature affects our weather patterns. La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures, as compared to El Niño,which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. Last summer there was a strong La nina which often means drier weather here. Current data now, suggest that water temperature is beginning to neutralize. Verdict: Good

2. Bermuda High. The semi-permanent area of high pressure, commonly known as the Bermuda High, in the Atlantic Ocean also determines what kind of weather we see. Depending on its location, this clockwise circulation around the high may reduce the chances of precipitation. However, scientists can only predict the Bermuda high for only two weeks into the future. Verdict: Unknown

With the oven turned on for most of the Southeast this past week, the fat lady probably will not be singing this summer.

Source of ideas for this post: Presentation from Hope Mizzell, the SC state climatologist with the Department of Natural Resources last week.

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