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Hurricane Patricia wiped out the exceptional droughts in southern US

On October 23 at 6:15 P.M. local time the eye of Hurricane Patricia hit the west coast of Mexico. This tropical cyclone rapidly weakened and left a clear wet trace over Mexico and the southern states of the US.

With data from the new NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive mission (SMAP) we were able to visualize her path. The figure below is a fingerprint of soil moisture change caused by Patricia. We analyzed the satellite data just before and right after the hurricane passed the area and looked at the differences in observations. This gives a very sharp pattern and shows where most rain, caused by the hurricane, fell on the ground, resulting in a strong increase in soil moisture.  

Below we show and intensity map of the soil moisture change (i.e. light blue is a small increase, dark blue is a strong increase in soil moisture) right after Hurricane Patricia passed the continent as seen by NASA’s new satellite mission SMAP. 
Figure 1: Intensity map of the soil moisture change (i.e. light blue is a small increase, dark blue is a strong increase in soil moisture) right after Hurricane Patricia passed the continent as seen by NASA’s new satellite mission SMAP.

The “wet carpet” rolled out by Patricia turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since several southern US states were dealing with severe drought conditions for months. Patricia provided the desired drought-ending precipitation as seen by the recent reports given by the US drought monitor.

Our study clearly demonstrates the under-exposed power of hurricanes. One hurricane can single handed kill an exceptional drought, which has been build up in several months.

While droughts are commonly stopped by long persistent depressions, here we see a single system doing something similar in just one day. To our opinion the capacity of Hurricanes to stop drought conditions is heavily overlooked and needs more attention by the scientific community. This is one example of the natural positive strength of a hurricane.

Us Drought Monitor Oct. 20 2015 before hurricane Patricia
Us Drought Monitor Oct. 27 2015 after hurricane Patricia
Two weekly reports from the US Drought Monitor (www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu) plotted on our study area are shown above. The first one right before the hurricane and the second one right after.
The VanderSat Earth Observation Research Team (www.vandersat.com)
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