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Drought conditions worsen as high pressure dominates

Now that the meteorological winter is here, a change is needed in our rainfall department in order to curb fire danger
Drought image
Drought image(WITN Weather)
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:54 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:56 AM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - This year has been one to remember for rainfall here in Eastern Carolina. We have gone from the wettest summer on record (33.46″ fell from June 1st to August 31st) to the third driest fall on record (3.57″ fell from September 1st to December 1st). The wet summer came with occasional flooding concerns, however most areas faired okay as we dodged the multitude of hurricanes and tropical storms that danced around the Gulf and Atlantic. However, this fall has seen the pendulum swing all the way back, putting most of the East in a moderate to severe drought.

A visual representation of the area affected by the ongoing drought
A visual representation of the area affected by the ongoing drought(WITN Weather)

A burn ban has been issued for all counties as of November 29th and will extend until further notice. This means all open burning must stop and no burning permits will be issued. The ban will likely extend into next week as the chances of rain look minimal over the next 8 days.

Rain gauges have been collecting more dust than drops the past few months. We ended the meteorological fall as of this Wednesday and rainfall totals were 10.6″ below what is considered normal. Our last measurable rain fell the morning of November 27th, and only totaled 0.1-0.2″ for most areas (Pitt-Greenville Airport reported 0.15″).

A basic look at atmospheric conditions that have lead to drought across the Southeastern U.S.
A basic look at atmospheric conditions that have lead to drought across the Southeastern U.S.(WITN Weather)

The cause of the dry weather comes down to the jet stream keeping high pressure systems anchored over or near the Southeast more often than not. This is a function of La Nina in the Pacific adjusting the positioning and strength of the jet stream that traditionally provides us with storm systems (i.e. rain). There is a 90% chance the La Nina event lasts through the winter, keeping us warmer and drier than what we’d experience under normal conditions.

Taking a bigger step back, this pattern lines up with what climatologists have been predicting when discussing climate change. Wet seasons will be wetter, dry seasons will be drier and extremes will become more normal. The good news is a change in this pattern is in our forecast next week. We are tracking two to possibly three rain makers that will help alleviate some of the problems the dry weather has been causing, however it will take a while before we catch up to our norm.

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