East Tennessee avoiding drought conditions affecting region
From Staff and Wire Reports
As weather conditions that have dried parts of the Tennessee River valley to drought status are expected to persist across a hotter than usual summer, much of East Tennessee has remained relatively unaffected, albeit a bit hot.
The lack of rainfall is posing challenges for river management to preserve recreation, water quality and municipal water supplies. But while local rainfall for the month so far, as measured at McGhee Tyson Airport, is down slightly from normal expectations, it’s hard to say if that trend will continue, said David Gaffin, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) at Morristown.
The official summer forecast from the NWS Climate Prediction Center is calling for hotter than normal temperatures across East Tennessee, but hasn’t given a clear indication for rainfall, Gaffin said.
“They’re saying it’s equal chances that we could be either above normal, normal or below normal,” Gaffin said. “So it means there’s no strong signal that’s going to cause our rainfall to go in either particular direction.”
Preliminary data from the NWS has recorded a total of 1.15 inches of rainfall for the month so far, as measured at McGhee Tyson Airport. That’s down only slightly from the 1.48 inches normally expected.
“Looks like we’re doing fine here in East Tennessee,” Gaffin said.
But the same can’t be said for other parts of the state.
While the NWS drought monit0r shows the Cumberland Plateau region is currently a little dryer than normal, Gaffin said, the Southern Plateau is experiencing a moderate drought. Some of Northwest Tennessee, near Dyersburg, is also seeing this slight drought.
The issue isn’t only what rain is or isn’t coming down, but also the moisture evaporating.
National Weather Service meteorologist Bobby Boyd recently installed an evapotranspiration gauge at his house near Nashville.
“It measures just the reverse of what a rain gauge measures,” Boyd said.
Since the first of June, Boyd has been recording about 0.2 inch of moisture evaporating daily from his lawn and its trees. He expects that to increase to about 0.4 inches per day on the hottest days.
“If you get a half-inch of rain today, you’ll lose that over the next couple of days,” Boyd said.
“A half-inch of rain isn’t going to go very far.”
The drought is at its worst in western Kentucky, while abnormally dry conditions exist in West Tennessee, north Alabama and on portions of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, according to the NWS.