Regional Climate: Current Research

Documenting and Interpreting the Southeast U.S. Drought



Drought conditions befell the southeast U.S. in late 2005 and, depending on the metric, may be continuing. Analyses of monthly precipitation for the southeast were instigated in support of the NOAA Climate Attribution effort headed by Martin Hoerling of NOAA ESRL. Time series of annual precipitation for the region were related to global sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies to identify regions where slowly evolving ocean conditions may be contributing to the drought. Future work is to analyze total column soil moisture output for the region from an hydrological model driven by temperature, precipitation, pressure and other meteorological observations (Justin Sheffield and Eric Wood, Princeton University). Analysis of the 60-year record of the hydrological model will suggest the degree to which the drought conditions are contributed to by local processes.

Droughts have historically been a feature of the U.S. climate and have dominated the climate of the southwest for the last decade. Future simulations that are part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that droughts in the southern U.S. and other parts of the world may be a manifestation of the secular increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Documenting and understanding the processes responsible for present drought conditions will be very useful for water resource planners, and may suggest processes that should be included in future IPCC analyses.

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Related Publications

For more publications on climate impacts on PNW climate, please see CIG Publications.