11 US States Are Currently Experiencing Historic Levels of Extreme Drought

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Current US drought status. Credit: US Drought Monitor

Eleven US states are experiencing historic levels of extreme drought, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor map published yesterday. 38.5 percent of the US is experiencing drought conditions, affecting 94.4 million people.

“This current drought is potentially on track to become the worst that we’ve seen in at least 1,200 years. And the reason is linked directly to human-caused climate change.”

– Kathleen Johnson, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California

Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming (and some areas in Idaho and South Dakota) are all suffering from extreme drought conditions.

“The drought situation in the western United States continued to worsen after another mostly hot and dry week. Increases in moderate, severe, extreme (and in a few cases, exceptional) drought coverage occurred in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. Severe drought also expanded in western Idaho. Wildfires and increasing wildfire danger, water restrictions, and damage to agriculture are very common across the West region.”

– the Drought Monitor website update

Drought conditions are ranked on severity, with “extreme drought” and “exceptional drought” being the two highest. According to the map, around 56 percent of states in the West are in “extreme drought,” and 26 percent are in “exceptional drought.”

Around 93 percent of Utah is in “extreme drought,” as well as 86 percent of Arizona, 85 percent of California, 76 percent of Nevada, and 63 percent of New Mexico.

In the last century or so, there have been thirteen major drought episodes in the US. This is defined as when more than ten percent of the country is in drought. Currently, at least 39.8 of the US is in moderate drought, 29 percent severe drought, and 18.2 percent extreme drought.

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