Top 5 Weather Events of 2023: #2 - Exceptional Drought
For much of late summer and fall, the entire Capital Area was classified as in exceptional drought—the highest level possible. A state known for summer storms, sudden flooding and tropical rain looked more like a desert through much of 2023.
The impacts were remarkable, if not unprecedented across Louisiana. Wildfires burned for weeks at a time. The most significant – the Tiger Island Fire in Beauregard Parish – claimed over 50-thousand acres. Burn bans were posted statewide. Some disregarded the restrictions, caused local wildfires, and were fined.
Both cattle ranchers and sugar can farmers struggled to keep their agricultural interests healthy. Both took hits to the bottom line as a result. There is also concern that the crawfish harvest will be affected and will cause higher prices in 2024.
Ongoing dredging work for the lakes restoration project in Baton Rouge was also slowed down. The dry lake beds made it hard for crews to move their equipment. In New Orleans, low river levels near the Mouth of the Mississippi allowed salty water from the Gulf of Mexico to flow northward threatening the freshwater supply to the city and especially areas south.
During January and February of 2023, almost the entire state was not classified under any drought category. That changed in March, when moderate drought expanded into the coastal regions of southeast Louisiana.
Starting in June rising temperatures and a highly unusual lack of rainfall caused the drought to rapidly expand and worsen with each passing week. As of late November, 99% of the state was under some level of drought, with 71% under the worst designation – the exceptional drought.
According to State Climatologist Dr. Barry Keim, “extreme heat and a lack of rainfall go hand in hand.” Baton Rouge set a record of 32 days with highs above 100° this year - the previous record being 28 days in 1921. Keim says that “the atmosphere over TX, LA, and MS was excessively stable over the entire summer with a persistent dome of high pressure hanging over the region.” The sun effectively blasted the region, leading to “a flash drought, where drought conditions intensified very rapidly.”
Follow along with the Storm Station’s top five weather events of 2023 on wbrz.com. Stay ahead of local weather with the Storm Station App and by following the team of meteorologists on Facebook and Twitter.
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