April showers will likely bring May flowers, but that doesnt mean the
eastern United States will quickly rebound from the drought conditions that
have persisted throughout most of winter.
According to scientists at NOAAs National Climatic Data Center, precipitation was near-normal for the country overall from November to January, but below-normal rainfall stretched from Florida to Maine, causing moderate to extreme levels of drought.
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center's Drought Monitor from March 5, 2002, shows moderate to extreme drought conditions along the East Coast. According to preliminary data, the Northeast experienced the second driest September to February in 107 years of record. And New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland reported the driest February on record. By Doug Lecomte, NOAA/CPC.
These drought conditions, says Frank Richards of the National Weather Service, are the result of several relatively dry years along the East Coast. And in many parts of the East Coast, in particular from the Mid-Atlantic up through southern New England and portions of Maine, there is a serious problem in terms of reservoir storage. There is a serious problem in terms of stream levels and there is a serious problem in terms of the water table, Richards says.
In fact, water managers in many parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast are reporting near-record low stream flows and reservoir levels. Drought conditions in Maine have dried up numerous wells and the 12 months ending in February were the states driest in record. In January, the Delaware River Basin Commission declared a drought emergency for the 13,539-square-mile watershed that drains portions of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Since October, high-pressure weather systems have deflected storms from the East Coast areas most affected by drought, robbing the region of needed precipitation. Although February and early March saw some strong precipitation patterns in the Southeast, the drought still persisted. In the spring, reservoirs in the Northeast depend on the melting of winters snow packs. This past winters below-normal snowfall will likely create an additional water debt for Northeast reservoirs.
The West Coast has been experiencing a similar dry period for several years. Despite near-normal precipitation patterns this past winter, the West is still recovering from last years drought. But, Richards says, the West Coast is better equipped than the East to handle multi-year droughts. Water reservoirs there are larger to accommodate dry seasons.
Large reservoirs are expensive. On the East Coast, where long dry spells are uncommon, reservoirs are smaller. And its hard to justify it economically to build these huge reservoirs for something that happens once in a blue moon, Richards says. So the shortfalls in rainfall on the East Coast are dramatic, but maybe not as dramatic as on the West. However, because the infrastructure is not able to accommodate it, the impacts are much greater.
Long-term weather forecasts from NOAAs Climate Prediction Center say occasional storms should provide slow improvement heading into spring. But water shortages will likely continue.
Spring time almost invariably, even in a drought situation, is going to bring some showers, Richards says. I suspect that unless we have a lot of rain over a fairly prolonged period, were going to get to this transition period where the perception on the part of most people is that the grass is green, even a little soggy in their backyards so what drought? Yet the water managers reservoirs will not be full and theyre going to be worried.
Lisa M. Pinsker
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The magnitude-6.5 earthquake that shook west-central Turkey on Feb. 3 struck
a nation that already had vivid memories of the two consecutive quakes in 1999
that killed more than 17,000 people. But this time they were better prepared.
Our state gained a lot of experience [since 1999], Prime Minister
Bulent Ecevit told MSNBC. For example, before the 1999 earthquakes our
civil defense organizations were not effective enough.
The recent earthquake killed 43 people and injured about 300. Government authorities, criticized for a slow response during the 1999 quakes, immediately began rescue operations, rushed in mobile soup kitchens and first-aid posts, and delivered tents, food and blankets. After the quake, seismologists began monitoring earthquake parameters, says Ferhat Tasci, head of Turkeys General Directorate of Disaster Affairs Earthquake Research Department.
After the 1999 earthquakes, seismologists conducted geological ground investigations to create an earthquake risk map showing land usable for construction and to revise existing construction plans, Tasci says. Building codes were revised after 1999, but the regulations apply to buildings yet to be constructed, he adds. The 1999 earthquake mainly affected rural areas where most buildings razed were old mud and brick houses, shops or government buildings.
At least eight aftershocks quickly followed the Feb. 3 temblor. Prime Minister Ecevit urged people to stay out of damaged buildings. In Cay, hundreds of people preferred to spend the night outdoors, or at a crisis center set up in a local school, in fear of more quakes.
Geotimes contributing writer
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on recent large earthquakes
Powerful quake shakes the Philippines
Large earthquake hits Afghanistan
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