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U.S. Drought at Lowest Level in Nearly Two Decades

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Andrea Thompson May 9th, 2017 full article here at climatecentral.org

After years of intense, record-setting drought across the U.S., particularly in the Great Plains and California, the country is now experiencing its lowest level of drought in the 17 years since the U.S. Drought Monitor began its weekly updates.  Less than 5 percent of the U.S. was in some stage of drought as of May 4, the most recent update, compared to the 65 percent mired in drought in September 2012….

afterDrought Has Disappeared from much of the U.S.  April 25, 2017 Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

…The epicenters of drought were in the central and southern Plains states from 2011 to 2013 and California from 2012 to this winter. At the peak of its drought, more than half of California was experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest category. At the end of September 2011, more than 85 percent of Texas was in this category.

Both droughts were fueled by a combination of dry weather and repeated, sizzling heat waves. The exceptional heat that blanketed much of the central and eastern portions of the country in 2012 boosted it to the hottest year on record for the U.S., while California experienced back-to-back record-hot years during its drought.

That heat is probably the clearest link between climate change and droughts, as rising global temperatures fueled by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere tilt the odds in favor of record heat and away from record cold….

Perhaps the clearest regional signals of climate change increasing drought are in the already arid Southwest, where droughts are expected to happen more often, last longer and be more intense than in the past. There is also some suggestion of more consecutive dry days for the Southern Plains, which could make it easier for that region to tip into drought…

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