Crops die and wildfires risk increases as almost 50% of the US and 74 million people experience drought – and experts warn conditions are only going to get worse
- Approximately 44% of the US in experiencing some level of drought
- Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and California are ‘severe to exceptional’
- These stats had experiencing major droughts in 2020 that linger to this year
- Droughts are due to a weak summer monsoon season and ongoing La Niña
Nearly 50 percent of the US is experiencing some level of drought that sets the perfect stage for intense wildfires and scorched cropland, experts warn.
The US Drought Monitor shows the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains and upper Midwest are currently in ‘moderate to exceptional’ categories, with Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and California are among the hardest hit states.
Weather officials are pointing to a weak summer monsoon season last year and ongoing La Niña conditions as the largest contributors.
Some 74 million Americans live in these regions, with many relying on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigating crops that currently has below-normal water levels.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also notes that above-average temperatures are expected over the entire US that could expand the dryness to all corners of the nation.
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Nearly 50 percent of the US is experiencing some level of drought that experts fear will worsen over the next few months. Maps show Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and California are among the hardest hit states
Droughts are typical around this time in the US, but many of the regions are still suffering from last year’s dryness.
In 11 western states, about 75 percent of the land is in drought that covers more than 44 percent of the nation, Bloomberg reports.
This year is also is deemed the seventh driest spring in seven years that experts say is due to climate change.
The lack of precipitation and La Niña have not just impacted the agriculture industry, but data shows snowpack in the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada is shrinking and wildfires are becoming more severe along the west coast.
California reservoirs sit at below historical averages due to a lack of winter storms and less snowpack in the Sierra Nevada
And some 35 million Americans rely on these water sources either for drinking or farming
What is La Niña?
A weather pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean every three to seven years.
It causes abnormally strong winds that make the ocean colder than it normally is.
This small change in temperature can trigger local weather patterns all over the world, including torrential rain, plunging temperatures and cyclones.
Rain clouds normally form over warm ocean water. La Niña blows all of this warm water to the western Pacific.
This means that places like Indonesia, Australia and southern Africa can get much more rain than usual.
It typically unfolds during the end of autumn or early winter.
California reservoirs sit at below historical averages due to a lack of winter storms and less snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
And some 35 million Americans rely on these water sources either for drinking or farming.
Data from the US drought monitor finds this is the fifth consecutive month of below-average rain and snow for the area.
Travel west of the Golden State and things do not appear to be any better.
Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service, said: ‘The Southwest US which is already experiencing widespread severe to exceptional drought, will remain the hardest hit region in the US, and water supply will continue to be a concern this spring in these drought-affected areas.’
‘This is a major change from recent years where millions were impacted by severe flooding.
‘Nonetheless, NOAA’s forecasts and outlooks will continue to serve as a resource for emergency managers and community decision-makers as they navigate all potential extreme seasonal weather and water events.’
Five states – Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and California – experienced the fifth hottest year in 2020, along with being the direst.
And the weather conditions have carried over into this year and is still linger into the spring months.
Some 74 million Americans live in these regions, with many relying on the Colorado River (pictured) for drinking and irrigating crops that currently has below-normal water levels
About 85 percent of Arizona is experiencing ‘exceptional to extreme’ drought – compared to just 30 percent this time last year. All of Utah is in drought, with 90 percent of the state in the ‘extreme’ category
About 85 percent of Arizona is experiencing ‘exceptional to extreme’ drought – compared to just 30 percent this time last year.
Officials fear that the dryness could open Arizona to a devastating wildfire season this summer.
Just across the border to the north sits Utah, which is all in a moderate drought category, with more than 90 percent of the state deemed ‘extreme.’