Western Drought: Expect More Fires & Water Wars

As of mid-June, nearly three-quarters of the US’s West has been experiencing “severe,” “extreme,” or “exceptional” drought conditions. In addition to the states above, it also includes northern states like North Dakota and Montana.

Overall, climate change is playing a role. But there are smaller factors at play that are tied to climate change as well. Including…

  • Not enough rain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) said the Southwest’s 2020 monsoon season (read: ‘nonsoon’) was “the hottest and driest summer/monsoon season on record.” And the decrease in rainfall is having an impact on today’s drought (think: not enough water for crops, lakes, or reservoirs). And for the little rain that has fallen, it could dry up faster because of…
  • Warmer temps. The NOAA dubbed 2020 the second-hottest year on record. And in late June, a record-breaking heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest, with the temperature reaching up to 112 degrees Fahrenheit in places like Portland, OR. (Psst…if you’re dealing with hot weather, here are some tips to stay safe.) Hotter, drier weather creates a thirsty environment, which speeds up evaporation. Rising temps are also causing snowpacks to melt faster, and they’re reportedly producing less runoff – a vital water resource. All of which means there’s less water available for communities and ecosystems.

Experts are also worried that the current dry and hot conditions will have a ripple effect, which brings us to wildfires. Last year’s West Coast wildfire season was the worst ever. Fires in California killed 31 people, burned more than 4 million acres, and destroyed thousands of buildings and structures. And this year, states like Arizona have seen an early start to their wildfire season. But the effects of the drought stretch even further.

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