U.S. Drought Monitor: Drought levels in the U.S. lowest in 17 years

At the end of April 2017, just 6 percent of the United States was afflicted by drought, the lowest level in 17 years of analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s a substantial turnaround from a few years ago, when long and short term droughts spread across much of the nation.

The news marks a downward trend from mid-2011, when many areas of the country began to experience drier-than-average weather. That summer, a headline in the U.S. Drought Monitor read: “‘Exceptional drought’ record for United States set in July.” By July 12, almost 12 percent of the contiguous United States was in an “exceptional” drought—including states as far flung as Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Florida.

“Two parts of the country that have composed a big portion of [its] drought area in the last decade, Texas and California, now have mostly normal conditions,” said Matthew Rodell, a hydrologist at NASA. “Texas’s drought broke in 2015, and California’s drought was alleviated by atmospheric rivers that brought heavy rains earlier this year. Combine that with recent precipitation across much of the northwestern and central parts of the nation, and the result is a much-wetter-than-normal map.”

The maps above show the U.S. as it looked on April 25, 2017, and roughly five years earlier, on August 7, 2012. Much of the country is currently drought-free (shown in white). One outlier, as shown in the image above, is Georgia (deep orange). Parts of the state remain in extreme drought, and water levels at the Lake Lanier reservoir have sunk 8 feet below full, according to authorities. Areas of Florida, too, continue to suffer from severe drought conditions—a stark contrast to early 2016, when it received record rainfalls.

Source: NASA

H/t reader kevin a.

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