2011 — Record for Wet/Dry Extremes in U.S.


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Percentage of the contiguous U.S. either in severe or greater drought (top 10% dryness) or extremely wet (top 10% wetness) during the period January – November, as computed using NOAA’s Climate Extremes Index. Remarkably, more than half of the country (56%) experienced either a top-ten driest or top-ten wettest year, a new record. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

Believe it or not (and it would be hard not to believe it), extreme weather is increasing in the U.S., and around the world, due to global warming. And 2011 was a record year for extreme weather. Wet and dry extremes hit an all-time high, as you can see in the chart above. Unfortunately, this year may not hold the record for long.

“Climate change science predicts that if the Earth continues to warm as expected, wet areas will tend to get wetter, and dry areas will tend to get drier–so this year’s side-by-side extremes of very wet and very dry conditions should grow increasingly common in the coming decades,” WunderBlog’s Dr Jeff Masters writes.

NRDC has a pretty cool (meaning useful) map and action opportunity on this on its site. Take a stroll over there if you have a moment to do so.

One of the most extreme extreme weather stories of the year was definitely the Texas drought. Speaking on this drought, Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon notes, “This is basically off the charts. Based on past history, you wouldn’t expect to see this happening in maybe 500 or 1,000 years.  One more year and we’re already talking about a drought more severe than anything we’ve ever had. And this will become for them, the drought of record.”

texas drought record
“With no previous points so dry it’s hard to say exactly what history would say about a summer such as this one. Except that this summer is way beyond the previous envelope of summer temperature and precipitation.” — Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon

Yes, that would be “off the charts” — well, literally, it would be if they didn’t extend the chart to make it fit. But the dots may be hovering around that area or even higher up on the graph this century if we don’t take action fast.

h/t Climate Progress

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