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September 23, 2010

Will tropical systems end Maryland's drought?

The new Drought Monitor map for this week is in, and for the first time since April 2009 it shows the entire state to be unusually dry. Nearly one-third of the state's geography is in moderate to extreme drought, with the worst of it west of Frederick.

More than a few times in my 30 years in Maryland, these summer dry spells have been ended by a brush with a tropical storm, or its remnants. Hanna in September 2008, Ernesto in September 2006 and Tammy in October 2005 come to mind.

We've written recently about the possibility that the patterns in the Atlantic may be about to AccuWeather.comchange. And now comes AccuWeather.com with a rather confident prediction that we are, indeed, about to see a sharp change in our rain fortunes - albeit too late for many farmers.

The commercial weather company is calling it, rather inelegantly, "Troptober" - suggesting that tropical weather will be the dominant force at work here next month. Their thinking is that the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are about to start boiling, tossing off tropical systems that have an increasing chance to make landfall in the northern Gulf region, or to track up the East Coast.

That, they believe, would mean improved chances that the dry and droughty region from Louisiana to southern New England is about to see some repeated, heavy rain:NOAA/NHC

"Repeating downpours could add up to a foot of rain in some locations, not only leading to street flooding and highway slow-downs, but perhaps all the way to small stream and even some river flooding.

"One tropical system alone can easily drop several inches of rain and erase the drought or abnormally dry pattern in these areas. There is the potential for several such systems to move northward. The details of which are not known at this time."

The National Hurricane Center today is already tracking a new tropical depression - the 15th of the season - in the western Caribbean (satellite photo). But it appears headed for Central America. Hurricane Watches are already posted for parts of Nicaragua and Honduras. 

UPDATE: The storm has now reached tropical storm strength. Its name is Matthew, the 13th named storm of the season. Here is the forecast storm track. And here is the view from orbit.

Let's see how good AccuWeather.com's experts really are.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 1:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Comments

There is an interactive map of Maryland drought conditions at http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-maryland-drought-conditions-map.php

FR: Thanks!

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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