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Drought conditions persist through September

By Randolph E. Schmid (Associated Press) - January 16, 2007

The drought parching much of the West and Southeast spread into the Mid-Atlantic area in September, the government reported in its monthly climate summary.

At the end of September about 43 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate to extreme drought, the National Climate Data Center said Tuesday.

Worldwide, meanwhile, the agency said the year to date has been the warmest on record for land. It has been the seventh warmest year so far over the oceans, working out to the fourth warmest overall worldwide.

But drought is probably the greatest concern in many parts of the country and the year to date has been the driest on record for Tennessee and North Carolina.

The eastern seaboard from Maine to the Carolinas and across parts of Florida was unusually dry in September, NCDC said.

And the September dryness extended across the Ohio Valley and into the southern Great Lakes.

The agency, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said drier-than-normal weather was also experienced in September across parts of the Pacific Northwest and northern Plains.

Drought-related conditions included:

* As of Sept. 25, Pasadena, Calif., experienced its driest year since records began in 1878. Many California communities imposed water use restrictions.

* The Great Lakes, which together make up about 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, have been in decline since the late 1990s. Lakes Huron and Michigan were about 2 feet below their long-term average levels, while Lake Superior was about 20 inches off, Lake Ontario 7 inches below and Lake Erie a few inches down.

* Maryland and Pennsylvania had about half of their counties under a drought watch. Many areas in upstate New York reported record low reservoir levels and dried-up wells and farm ponds.

* Alabama Power, the state’s largest utility, has been operating some of its coal plants at significantly reduced levels to avoid raising water temperatures in the Coosa, Black Warrior and Mobile rivers.

* The Tennessee Valley Authority shut down Brown’s Ferry Number 2 nuclear power plant due to inadequate streamflow.

* At the end of September, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared a level four drought response across the northern third of the state, which prohibits most types of outdoor residential water use.

The report said that while September was only the eighth warmest month on record for the United States, that was still hot enough to break 1,000 daily high records across the country.

With the worldwide warming, the extent of Arctic Sea ice reached its lowest amount in September since satellite measurements began in 1979, shattering the previous record low set in 2005.