A large portion of the U.S. will experience drought-related conditions this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week. The last time something like this happened was back in 2013.
This past winter showed signs of the exceptionally dry spring to come. It was the 12th driest winter in the last 128 years, according to NOAA. In many areas of the country, less snowpack means less water for nearby lakes and rivers when the snow melts in the spring.
Many areas are already experiencing drought, and the few parts of states like Arizona and Texas that have been spared will soon be suffering the same, the New York Times reported.
The American West has been struggling with a long-lasting drought. “Severe to exceptional drought has persisted in some areas of the West since the summer of 2020 and drought has expanded to the southern Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley,” Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in a NOAA release.
The ongoing drought in the Southwest is the worst in over 1,000 years, and the lengthy dry period has brought reservoirs to new lows. Lake Powell, which is one of the country’s most important reservoirs, as it provides water to about 40 million people across multiple states, is drying up.
California officials have already called for residents to voluntarily lower their water use by about 15%, the LA Times reported. It’s likely that other states affected by drought may begin similar efforts to conserve water.
According to current conditions in the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 230 million acres of crops have experienced drought conditions this week. More than 110 million people are experiencing drought in the continental U.S., an increase of over 20% since last month.
Dry spells are normal in some regions of the U.S., but human-induced climate change is making them more common and longer lasting. As the climate crisis continues to change weather and precipitation patterns, more people and more industries will suffer from the effects of widespread droughts.