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Washington Voices

Warm, dry through September

We’ve all heard about the severe drought conditions that are plaguing much of the central United States. According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, July had the “highest level of drought since the monitor began documenting conditions 12 years ago.”

Drought conditions have been listed as “exceptional” across approximately 12 percent of the U.S. in July. More than 40 percent of the U.S. is in the middle of abnormal dryness or drought.

The regions of the major drought are in the southern Great Plains southward into Texas. The residents of Texas had their hopes for rain fizzle when Tropical Storm Don fell apart as it moved over the state last weekend.

Texas is suffering from the third-worst drought in the state’s history. More than 2 million acres of farmland has been abandoned due to the lack of water. Other states that are very dry include New Mexico, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

We should remember that region likewise had an unusually wet and cool spring with a record number of deadly tornadoes, flash floods, large-sized hail and destructive 70-mile-per-hour straightline winds.

But things changed drastically weatherwise by late May and early June east of the Rockies to the Atlantic coast, thanks to the death of La Niña and a warmer and drier trend.

A huge Omega-type high-pressure ridge has been parching crops in at least 15 states for weeks, especially from the southern Great Plains eastward to the lower mid-Atlantic regions. On July 22, Newark, N.J., hit a scorching 108 degrees, the city’s highest reading ever observed, at least during the past two centuries.

Corn has been severely damaged in the Deep South. In many areas from Texas to the Carolinas, it’s been cut for silage or baled for hay. Similar drought and excessive heat problems have killed crops in the past several weeks in Kansas, Oklahoma and southeastern Colorado. Megafires in Arizona and New Mexico have been of historic size and scope.

I still expect a warm and dry weather pattern through September across the region. The best chances for more hot weather are around the middle and the end of August near the full moon and new moon lunar phases.

We’ll likely see that back-and-forth pattern with very warm to mild afternoons over the next several months. The upcoming fall season should be drier and a little warmer than normal. And, we should see far less snow during the winter of 2011-’12 as the cooler La Niña sea-surface temperature pattern has “bitten the dust.”

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