The United States is increasingly being covered by drought, as the yearlong Southeast drought continues, and drought conditions expand across the Southwest and West Coast.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared that California is in a statewide drought. That's a disappointing turn of events for the state, which had greeted strong winter snows with hope that mountain snowpack would yield strong and consistent stream runoff well into the spring. After one of the driest springs on record, however, stream flows are now expected at just half of normal.
"On the heels of last winters low totals, the water strain has been increased after a disappointing finish to this winter," reported the U.S. Drought Monitor this morning. "Final snow water content levels statewide were only around 67% of average and thus streamflow runoff forecasts are only calling for a little more than 50% of normal."
The drought is pushing out of California and into Idaho and Washington.
Drought in this region is not only a challenge for drinking water supply managers and for farmers, but also represents an increased risk of wildfire. Scientists have warned that with global warming will come increased fire risk, as mountain snowpacks dwindle and increased heat leads to increased evaporation and drier conditions. Already this year 1,518,853 acres have been burned by large wildfires, 40% more than the 10-year average to date.
The drought in the northern plains, centered on North Dakota, receded somewhat with heavy but spotty rains associated with strong storm systems that have swept across the U.S. this year, spawning tornadoes and strong thunderstorms, but without yielding long, steady rains that best relieve drought conditions.
The drought in the Southeast, meanwhile, is still inspiring strange territorial squabbles as Atlanta looks beyond the borders of its home state for water. One front in that water war has caught booze in the cross-fire.
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