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Impacts and Perspectives on the 2023 Southern U.S. Drought and Heat: November 8, 2023

Event Date
November 8, 2023
Event Time
11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas faced Exceptional Drought (D4) conditions for the past year. These have resulted in low river flows through the lower Mississippi River, record-setting fire conditions in Louisiana, and additional hardships for agriculture in the region. Watch the recap to learn more about current and forecasted drought conditions in the region.

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Climate Conditions and Drought Attribution  

Speaker: Joe Barsugli | Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) / University of Colorado Boulder

  • In summer 2023, there was a widespread heat wave across the southern tier of the United States.
  • A persistent and anomalously strong ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere led to low precipitation, which played a key role in the persistent high temperatures. 
  • Recent dry summers have been 1-2 ºF warmer than in prior years with a similar precipitation deficit, consistent with the effects of anthropogenic climate change.
  • Climate model projections indicate that there is a continued and increasing risk of such heat waves as the climate warms, especially in dry years. 



Fire Conditions and Outlook

Speaker: Wade Dubea | State Forester, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry

  • The Tiger Island fire was the largest fire in Louisiana history.
  • Fire behavior this season was unusual for this climate, including fire in the crown of trees and fires intensifying overnight.
  • The years leading up to summer 2023 had two hurricanes and plenty of rain. This led to increased fuels. Those fuels dried over the summer 2023, and fires from August–October 2023 set new records:
    • Over 1,300 active fires.
    • Over 62,000 acres burned:
      • August: 53,463.54 acres (average of last five years = 445.46 acres)
      • September: 2739.36 (avg. = 325.9)
      • October: 2625.71 (avg. = 632.1) 



Mississippi River Conditions and Outlook

Speaker: Jeff Graschel | Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center

  • Rainfall has alleviated the record low water levels that occurred in early October.
  • Long-range forecasts do not indicate more record low water, but below-normal conditions will continue through early December.
  • Historical river levels typically show rises as rainfall/runoff increases as we approach winter.



Questions & Answers

Moderator: Michael Gavazzi | USDA Southeast Climate Hub Coordinator