The drought, which has hit much of California, Nevada, Utah, and much of the southwest, has been called a “megadrought”–the worst in 1,200 years. The NOAA has released its temperature and precipitation forecast for this winter. In portions of the U.S., drought conditions will worsen. The state most likely to be affected is Nevada, where it rains only a few days a year.
Among the NOAA U.S. Winter Outlook’s primary forecasts is “Drought to persist in Great Plains, parts of West and expand.” Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, commented: “Drought conditions are now present across approximately 59% of the country, but parts of the Western U.S and southern Great Plains will continue to be the hardest hit this winter.”
The predictions are based on the third year of the effects of La Niña–a weather pattern based on conditions in the equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean. It creates higher-than-average temperatures. Married with low precipitation, drought spreads, deepens, and becomes more dangerous. The number of acres burned by wildfires increases most years. The areas where there is healthy agricultural activity shrink. Cities in these regions also grow short of water. Some of these cities are among the fastest-growing in America by population, which worsens the problem.
The NOAA Drought Outlook covers the period from November 2022 to January 2023. It maps drought state by state, as it forecasts “drought tendency.” The prediction falls into five categories. One is that there will be no change from current conditions. The others are that doubt will continue or worse, “develop,” ‘Improve,” or “end.’
Only one state’s entire geographic footprint is expected to have a drought that will continue or worse This is Nevada. The weather in Las Vegas, which houses well over half the state’s population, is a good proxy for the state. Average precipitation by month is below one inch. In the spring, the monthly averages are very close to zero. Present circumstances are worse than that. Las Vegas has recently put in rules to conserve what water there is.
It is unimaginable that a thousands year drought could worsen, but for parts of the U.S., it is.
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