The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

November 12, 2013

Drought conditions likely to return

By Budd McLaughlin
bud@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS —

For a lot of people, the idea that we could possibly be approaching drought conditions is inconceivable.

Particularly since this summer was one of the wettest – and coolest – on record.

So, how can this be possible?

“We haven’t had a major rainfall since the middle of September,” said state Climatologist Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “The stream flows only now have started to show a decline.”

The norm for rainfall in September is 4.2 inches but locally the average for the month was about 1 inch.

Though the state is still ahead of its annual rainfall because of the rain earlier in the year, . the rain earlier in the year, However, Christy said there will be a drought recommendation. In particular, he said, there are a couple of bands that are “abnormally dry.” One such band stretches from Pickens County northeastward to about Chattanooga; Limestone County is on the northern edge of that band.

The Arctic front that will be moving through the area today won’t help improve the conditions, either.

“The dry, cold winds help dry out and will exaggerate the drought conditions,” Christy said.

The time period from mid-September to mid-October is normally dry, he said. Christy also said there could likely be outdoor burn warnings issued.

 

Coincidentally, area firefighters responded to several calls Monday about grass and brush fires.

“It’s odd because we think of fire dangers in the summer,” he said. “Fall is worse than spring because the leaves and grass are turning brown and dying.

“They’re ready to burn.”

He doesn’t have any good news, either, to those who would like to see some precipitation down the road.

“The long-range forecast doesn’t give much hope,” Christy said. “El Nino and la Nina (Pacific Ocean-based weather systems) are not play in this year.”

And with that, he offers his forecast.

“I’m a climatologist and look out the rear window,” he said. “The forecasters look out the windshield.

“With this being a ‘neutral year’ (no el Nino or la Nina), be ready for anything. Be prepared.”