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South Carolina State Climatology Office
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South Carolina Drought News Release

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Land, Water and Conservation Division
South Carolina Drought Response Program
Department of Natural Resources News (803) 734-4133

NEWS RELEASE # 02 - January 14, 2002

DESPITE RECENT PRECIPITATION
DROUGHT CONDITIONS PERSIST

Although South Carolina received some precipitation earlier this month,climatologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources say the state's drought conditions persist.

Preliminary precipitation reports just released indicate that 2001 was the second driest year on record in South Carolina since 1895. The statewide average precipitation total for 2001 was 34.88 inches, which is 13 inches below normal. The driest year on record was 1954, with 32.06 inches reported as the statewide average.

For the first week of 2002 the state received a wide range of precipitation types - rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow. Snowfall amounts ranged from 4 to 8 inches for the Midlands and Upstate to a trace along the coast. The water equivalent total for the rain and snow events averaged 0.7 inches. Recent precipitation events have improved moisture levels in the upper level of the soil, but have had minimal impact on the long-term hydrological deficit.

According to Masaaki Kiuchi, hydrologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), all monitored streams in the state are in the "extreme drought" category, which is less than 90 percent of the minimum flow. The low streamflows and lack of precipitation have caused many lake levels to continuously drop. Lake Marion is reporting levels six feet below capacity, Lake Jocassee is 19.6 feet below, and Lake Hartwell is 12 feet below. It will require above-normal precipitation over a period of time for most lakes to return to near capacity.

The state has experienced drought conditions since June 1998, the longest drought period since the 1950s. Table 1 below shows the annual rainfall amounts since 1998 for selected stations around the state. The annual precipitation totals are below normal except for 1998, when there was a very wet period from January through April. According to Milt Brown, acting State Climatologist with the DNR, the four-year rainfall deficit ranges from 16.37 inches at Charleston to 59.01 inches at Columbia.

Kiuchi emphasizes that this is the time of year for ground water levels to start recovering. There has been little recharge during the multi-year drought. Since the drought began in June 1998, the annual mean water level in a shallow sand monitoring well in Aiken County has dropped about 2 feet. It could take several continuous normal to wet years for water levels in deeper aquifers to recover.

Hope Mizzell, DNR Drought Program Coordinator, comments that while climatologically 2001 was the driest year since the drought began, the economic impacts were less, especially for agriculture. South Carolina received rainfall at critical times during the growing season. Last year, however, the state reported the second worst southern pine beetle outbreak since records began in the early 1960s. According to Ken Cabe with the S.C. Forestry Commission, the drought significantly contributed to the southern pine beetle epidemic. Trees weakened by drought are more susceptible to the tree-killing beetles. Timber losses due to beetles in 2001 was total $76 million.

The drought also caused a significant reduction in forest growth. The Forestry Commission reports that of trees planted during 2000 survival was 25 percent less than expected. It was also the worst fall fire season since 1991 with the Forestry Commission responding to 2,308 fires, which burned 12,565 acres from September through December. This is double the average number of fires and four times the number of acres normally burned during the four-month fall season.

Mizzell explains that the four-year drought has had a major economic impact on the state with significant effects on tourism, forestry, and agriculture. Losses continue to accumulate and are difficult to quantify because of the indirect impact it has on so many sectors.

Table 1:

Allendale
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      51.34      49.04        2.30
1999      39.46      49.04       -9.58
2000      36.87      49.04       -12.17
2001      34.56      49.04       -14.48
Total     162.23    196.16       -33.93

Beaufort
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      53.64      51.40        2.24
1999      50.77      51.40       -0.63
2000      37.82      51.40      -13.58
2001      33.72      51.40      -17.68
Total     175.95    205.6       -29.65

Charleston
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      57.20      51.53        5.67
1999      46.61      51.53       -4.92
2000      45.94      51.53       -5.59
2001      40.00      51.53      -11.53
Total    189.75     206.12      -16.37

Cheraw
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      56.95      48.59        8.36
1999      40.82      48.59       -7.77
2000      45.97      48.59       -2.62
2001      34.11      48.59      -14.48
Total    177.85     194.36      -16.51

Chester
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      55.23      48.43        6.80
1999      34.31      48.43      -14.12
2000      43.33      48.43       -5.10
2001      32.46      48.43      -15.97
Total    165.33     193.72      -28.39

Clemson
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      61.46      54.40        7.06
1999      43.79      54.40      -10.61
2000      37.21      54.40      -17.19
2001      39.46      54.40      -14.94
Total    181.92     217.6       -35.68

Columbia
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      46.47      49.91       -3.44
1999      29.97      49.91      -19.94
2000      36.21      49.91      -13.70
2001      27.98      49.91      -21.93
Total    140.63     199.64      -59.01

Florence
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      43.42      43.84       -0.42
1999      39.45      43.84       -4.39
2000      36.04      43.84       -7.80
2001      30.83      43.84      -13.01
Total    149.74     175.36      -25.62

Greenville-Spartanburg
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      51.98      51.27        0.71
1999      36.16      51.27      -15.11
2000      35.04      51.27      -16.23
2001      40.38      51.27      -10.89
Total    163.56     205.08      -41.52

Johnston
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      50.31      49.25        1.06
1999      37.56      49.25      -11.69
2000      47.37      49.25       -1.88
2001      31.51      49.25      -17.74
Total    166.75     197.00      -30.25

Sumter
YEAR    Rainfall     Normal     Departure
1998      53.95      48.14        5.81
1999      38.73      48.14       -9.41
2000      36.62      48.14       -11.52
2001      36.84      48.14       -11.30
Total    166.14     192.56       -26.42

Find out more about the State Climatology Office at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/climate/sco/ or by calling (803) 734-9100.

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