WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

The Drought: Another Perspective

Posted December 18, 2007

Over the last few weeks, we've had plenty of opportunities to wax poetic on the state of the drought.  We've looked at:

  • an overall classification ("severe", "exceptional", etc.)
  • year-to-date rainfall deficits
  • number of days of water available from area lakes

...and so on.  Last night at 6pm, Greg looked at another way of measuring just how bad off some parts of North Carolina are.  Instead of looking at a rainfall deficit, we looked at this year's rainfall as a percentage of normal rainfall.  How much of our normal rainfall this year have we gotten so far?

The numbers are staggering.   

For example, we all know how severe the drought is in the Triangle.  Would you believe that -- in terms of this year's rainfall, anyway -- this area is doing better than most of the state? 

As of Monday night -- including this weekend's very beneficial rains -- Raleigh/Durham International Airport has gotten only 78% of its normal rainfall through Monday.  Compare that to Fayetteville's 59%, Wilmington's 58%, or Elizabeth City's 55%. 

In other words, Elizabeth City, Wilmington, and Fayetteville have gotten just barely more than half of the rain that they're supposed to have gotten so far this year.  RDU would very likely be in that boat, had it not been for about half a dozen days over the last year where we lucked out with heavy rainfall, including two events in October.

Unfortunately, serious drought relief isn't likely in the next few months.  The La Niña event -- cooler than normal waters in the equatorial Pacific near South America -- and other factors all suggest a drier-than-normal winter for us, as reflected in the Climate Prediction Center's official climate outlook for December, January, and February.



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  • Mike Moss Dec 24, 2007

    For reed8823: Based on observed totals from the current "climate normals" period of 1971-2000 at RDU, the average yearly precipitation is 43.1 inches, and the standard deviation about that value is plus or minus 6.4 inches. This indicates that annual rainfall ranges between roughly 37 and 49 inches about 67% of the time, and between 31 and 55 inches about 95% of the time.

  • reed8823 Dec 23, 2007

    Since we're looking at different measures of rainfall, what's the mean and standard deviation for annual rainfall at RDU?

  • charlesboyer Dec 19, 2007

    "in 90-some days we will be high and dry!"

    Assuming that there is no precipitation upstream from our reservoirs. Also keep in mind that the number is also the numbers of days at current consumption rates and that there would certainly be a drastic rationing plan put into effect if it goes down much more than it already has.

    Strangely, it has rained twice this week with more forecast for the weekend. I know that it won't "solve" the drought, but every little bit extends the supply just a little further until the macro-conditions that set up our climate shift back in our favor.

  • chargernut69 Dec 19, 2007

    what is the point of this?... the real issue is that we are soon to run out of water - it doesn't really make any difference if we are doing "better"... in 90-some days we will be high and dry!