by John Keefe and Rachel Ramirez | CNN
An unprecedented, multi-year drought continues in the West amid a period of record heat and drought, which scientists say is affecting not only the weather, but water supplies, food production and electricity generation. Has been doing. .
According to the US Drought Monitor, despite some good rainfall in the Southwest, new drought numbers are getting worse in the West and extending the drought across the West. More than 95 percent of the West is in some stage of drought, with about two-thirds in extreme or exceptional drought – the two worst categories.
Six states are in a state of complete drought.
Across the US, the size of droughts has nearly doubled over the past year. About 25% of the country was in a state of drought in July 2020; As of this week, about half is in drought.
In addition to the mandatory water restrictions already in place, more tough cuts to come Water levels along the Colorado River dropped amid drought in some states.
Climate change is playing a key role in these complex crises: Drought and extreme heat are fueling wildfires; Low snowpack and lack of sufficient rainfall are driving up water demand for millions of people as well as agriculture, ecosystems and deteriorating infrastructure.
More than 95% of the West is vulnerable to drought, the largest area on record. More than 65% of the area is in ‘extreme’ or ‘extraordinary’ drought – the two most severe categories – during the month of July extending over 60,000 square miles, or about the size of the state of Georgia.
Six states are in a state of complete drought: California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and North Dakota.
While the southwest monsoon rains improved the situation in Arizona, New Mexico and southwest Colorado, it brought little relief. Elsewhere, drought intensified in the northern Rockies and especially in the Pacific Northwest, where numbers are dire and rainfall is basically non-existent.
In form of bootleg fire, the nation’s largest active wildfire, ravaged southern Oregon, with about 17% of the state now in exceptional drought – a number that has nearly quadrupled in a month and is the highest on record for the state. Washington state, which had never seen an exceptional drought until last week, has now seen it cover more than a quarter of the state. It is also a leader in a country with poor ratings for rangeland pastures, spring wheat and barley.
Shocking declines continued in many of the West’s largest reservoirs and lakes. Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir behind the Hoover Dam, fell 135 feet below its 2000 level when it was last considered full.
Meanwhile, Fleming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming and Utah is releasing water to boost the water level of Lake Powell to protect its hydroelectric generating capacity. Also in Utah, the surface elevation of the Great Salt Lake also declined, tying the previous record low set in 1963.
As the planet warms, drought and extreme heat will also fuel deadly wildfires. Several studies have linked rising carbon dioxide emissions and higher temperatures to increased burning area across the West, particularly in California.
The West has received very little rain and snowfall in the past year due to extremely high temperatures. Less rainfall and increasing heat waves have directly led to drought conditions and water scarcity.
The southwest monsoon that started in mid-July is expected to bring some relief to the region. Still, the Drought Monitor reports recent rainfall “provides limited drought relief.” In some cases, the agency reports, “moisture has seeped into the soil for several feet.”
As climate change intensifies and winter temperatures rise, snowfall will decrease. High-elevation snowpack acts as a natural reservoir that mitigates drought, storing water during the winter months and slowly releasing it during the spring melt season.
stream and river flow
A measure of how much water is carried by streams, rivers and streams is another important indicator of drought and its impact.
As drought conditions worsen in 2021, hundreds of streams and river spaces are experiencing below-average flows. More than 50 percent of western monitoring stations reported lower-than-normal flows. Fishing has been banned on many rivers in Montana due to the low flow and warm waters.
Changes in stream flow affect water supplies for our own municipal use, crop irrigation and power generation.
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