We are in the midst of this rather serious drought. As of today, Sept 3, what is the actual rainfall deficit and how does it compare to the recent drought years of 2002 and 2005? Also, according to your current forecast, it appears that we will break the (1953 record) number of 90 or better days. As a refreshing thought, what was the winter of 1953 like?

Posted Updated

Bill Rose

MIKE MOSS SAYS:        Bill,     I'm getting to your question about a week later than you asked it - pretty busy with both some behind-the-scenes training and Gabrielle through the past week. Now, of course, we're up to Sep 10th, and the current year-to-date rainfall deficit at RDU is -6.9 inches, while Greensboro stands at 10.9 inches below normal. Looking at some different time periods, RDU stands at -2.9 inches for the past 30 days (19% of normal), -3.1 inches for the past 90 days, and +1.0 inch for the past year. Note that the longer term numbers do not look all that bad for RDU compared to the shorter-term statistics. However, there was a notable tendency up until a couple of months back for RDU to luck out with some rainfall in situations where many surrounding areas largely missed out, so the numbers for RDU are a little "wetter" than the area in general. It's also worth noting that with the especially high temperatures we saw in August evaporation rates and water usage were both quite high, and that streamflows and some groundwater levels are quite low, the last showing itself in the form of spotty failures of some shallow (bored) wells across the region. You can read a fairly recent status update from the Raleigh NWS office about the drought at

As for the 90-degree days record, we broke that on Sunday with a high of 95 degrees making for the 73rd day at 90 or higher for the year, versus the 1953 record of 72 at RDU. We're likely to reach 75 days on Tuesday, before some cooler air makes its way into the area, hopefully as part of a pattern change that will lead to more typical temperatures and somewhat better rain chances for a while.Do note that in 1941, when "official" records for Raleigh were based on readings from the Raleigh Municipal Airport, 82 days reached or exceeded 90 degrees, so the record we're talking about recently is based on RDU only (so as to "compare apples to apples" you might say).

Finally, a quick look at the winter of 1953, while it may not really provide a useful analog in predicting the upcomng winter, showed a season in which precipitation was well above normal (14.6 inches versus a normal of about 10, with December (5.4") and January (7.5") especially active) and the average 1953 winter temperature 44.5 degrees versus a normal of 42.8, a result of December and January readings very near normal and then a warm, dry February. Snowfall for the season was 6.5 inches, all in January, pretty close to our seasonal normal of about 7 inches (a normal that is arrived at from especially variable yearly figures, of course).

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