New York Times: The Western Drought Is Bad. Here’s What You Should Know About It. Answers to questions about the current situation in California and the Western half of the United States.
Much of the Western half of the United States is in the grip of a severe drought of historic proportions. Conditions are especially bad in California and the Southwest, but the drought extends into the Pacific Northwest, much of the Intermountain West, and even the Northern Plains.
Drought emergencies have been declared. Farmers and ranchers are suffering. States are facing water cutbacks. Large wildfires are burning earlier than usual. And there appears to be little relief in sight.
Experts with the United States Drought Monitor, a collaboration of several federal agencies and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, assess the severity of drought in a given area, ranking it from moderate to exceptional. They take many factors into account, including precipitation totals, snowpack, stream flows and soil moisture measurements, and use images from remote-sensing satellites to assess the health of vegetation.