Why It's Dry ; as Forecasting Improves, States May Soon Be Able to Prepare for Droughts as Many Now Do for Hurricanes and Earthquakes

By Peter N. Spotts writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 7, 2002 | Go to article overview

Why It's Dry ; as Forecasting Improves, States May Soon Be Able to Prepare for Droughts as Many Now Do for Hurricanes and Earthquakes


Peter N. Spotts writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


When poet Carl Sandburg wrote of fog coming in "on little cat feet," he could just as well have applied the image to another, more troubling weather event: drought. For more than 50 years, researchers have noted that drought is a "creeping" phenomenon. People recognize they're experiencing it only after it has been around for a while, and then struggle to cope with it.

But now, researchers are looking forward to new tools to help them improve drought forecasting, while in Washington, lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation in the next few weeks aimed at setting up machinery to help states, counties, and cities prepare for drought, much as many do already for hurricanes or earthquakes.

These efforts come as about 30 percent of the United States is shaded in yellows, tans, and browns on drought-severity maps.

"In many places, the current drought is a 1-in-20- to a 1-in-50- year event," notes James Laver, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in Camp Springs, Md. "It's not unprecedented, but it's pretty unusual."

Steven Turner needs no convincing of that. Standing inside the water-filtration plant alongside the Millham Reservoir, which ordinarily supplies a third of the drinking water to residents in Marlborough, Mass., Mr. Turner, a plant operator, notes that the water level is so low that the facility hasn't pumped a gallon since the end of last October.

Since then, he quips, "we've painted everything that doesn't move, and now we are chasing things that do move." Elsewhere in the state, neighborhood ponds have become occasionally malodorous mud flats. To tend nesting boxes for wood ducks, residents plod over planks rather than paddle canoes.

In New Jersey, this winter has been the driest on record. On Monday Gov. James McGreevey declared the state's first drought emergency.

In the Washington, D.C., area, conditions have been so dry that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick asked the half-million Roman Catholics in the area to pray for rain last month. US Army Corps of Engineers officials made the same suggestion to residents attending a meeting on water allocation in Anderson, S.C., last week, after saying the corps has done the best it could to manage water levels in nearby lakes. During the past four years, some parts of the state have accumulated a rainfall deficit of 48 inches.

Georgia has also endured drought for the past four years, notes Mark Svoboda, a climatologist at the National Drought Monitoring Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Out west, Montana and Wyoming are withering under three years of drought conditions. There, drought conditions stretch to southern Texas.

The tricky business of forecasting

Climatologists attribute the drought to several factors. Cooler- than-usual waters in the tropical Pacific, the flip side to El Nino, have triggered shifts in climate patterns during the past few years. Winters in the US Southeast have tended to be drier and warmer than normal, as have summers in the northern-tier states, particularly those along the Rocky Mountains. In addition, the atmospheric impact of the cool Pacific waters, known as La Nina, have driven the storm- steering jet stream toward the north.

Now, as La Nina has started to give way to what could be another El Nino, these "teleconnections" between ocean-atmosphere interactions in the tropical Pacific and seasonal weather patterns over North America and elsewhere are expected to shift as well. In its latest seasonal-drought outlook, the CPC anticipates "slow improvement" in the northern Rocky Mountain states, along the Eastern Seaboard, and along the Texas-New Mexico border. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why It's Dry ; as Forecasting Improves, States May Soon Be Able to Prepare for Droughts as Many Now Do for Hurricanes and Earthquakes
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.