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By Bob Valen 

February on the dry side

Weather Watcher


As Washington state and the rest of the western United States continue to rebound from drought, I’ve come across a couple of interesting scientific research articles that I’m sharing here. I have two stories, one from here in the United States and the other occurring now in the Mediterranean region.

First, let’s revisit the great Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. A recent study that used a reconstruction of North American drought history over the last 1,000 years found that the drought of 1934 was the driest and most widespread of the last millennium. Scientist used the tree-ring-based drought record from the years 1000 to 2005, as well as modern records from NASA. The findings were that the 1934 drought was 30 percent more severe than the runner-up drought in 1580. The research also showed that the drought extend across more than 70 percent of Western North America.

Two sets of conditions were at play, causing the 1934 drought. We have little control over one — weather patterns. The other condition we can control and we have made great improvements — land management practices.

This next research is really interesting. It addresses the recent and ongoing drought in the Eastern Mediterranean. This drought started in 1998, affecting several countries in the Mediterranean Levant region. NASA and other scientists have reconstructed the drought history of the Mediterranean by studying tree rings. Thin rings indicate dry years, while thick rings indicate years when water was plentiful. The results are astounding: “The recent drought in the Levant region, from 1998 to 2012, stands out as about 50 percent drier than the driest period in the past 500 years, and 10 to 20 percent drier than the worst drought of the past 900 years.”

Here’s a general look at our weather for the next 2.5 months. The Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is showing that our temperatures are to be above normal and that precipitation has an equal chance of being above or below normal.

OK, to our numbers for the month of February. We ended on the dry side with only 0.59 inches of precipitation here at the home weather station. The mean for February is 0.92 inches. The all-time record is 3.58 inches back in 1958. We did measure a bit of snow at 0.2 inches, while the mean is 2.5 inches for the month.

We were a bit on the warm side too. Our mean temperature for this February was 37.7˚F, while the all-time mean is 32.7˚F. Our low of 23.6˚F is way above the all-time low of -15˚F, and our high of 59.8˚F is below the all-time high of 61˚F back in 1995.

Of interest, NOAA has turned on the new Weather and Climate Supercomputer System, and it’s running at record speed. This means the United States is now capable of more accurate weather predictive analysis. We had fallen behind in this area as compared to other nations. Through these new, ultra-high-speed systems, NOAA can now handle, as they stated, “the tidal wave of data that new observing platforms will generate,” which allows them to push the science and operations into exciting new territory.

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