When in Drought, Look to the Tropics?

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All of Carteret County is officially experiencing drought conditions, according to the NC Drought Management Advisory Council

Carteret is one of eight North Carolina counties classified as being under “moderate drought.” Moderate drought conditions can potentially damage crops and lead to low well-water levels.

This year’s rain totals for the area are more than six inches below average – a deficit of more than 20 percent. So far, no water restrictions are in effect.

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The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is hopeful that relief is on the way. If forecasts prove correct, the county’s drought classification could be removed by fall.

But the same weather phenomenon that could deliver us from drought is also likely to cause an uptick in the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

As of last week, El Nino – which brings abnormally warm water to the Pacific – has dissipated. Here on the East Coast, lack of El Nino means conditions in the Atlantic become less stable, and less stability equals better chances of tropical cyclone formation.

El Nino and its counterpart, La Nina, are so closely tied to tropical activity in the Atlantic that the Climate Prediction Center has “moderate confidence” that tropical weather systems will pull us out of drought by Oct. 31.

You read that right. Coastal Carolina’s dry weather savior will probably come in the form of a tropical system – or several of them.

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In response to El Nino’s demise last week, NOAA increased the chance of an above-average hurricane season from 30 percent to 45 percent. The updated predictions call for 10-17 named storms, 5-9 of which will reach hurricane status. On average, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes.

There’s still a decent chance that we will see enough rain to wash away the drought without a named tropical system coming into play. Less severe tropical waves can dump enough precipitation to have the same effect.