From soybeans and sunflowers in North Dakota to cotton and winter wheat in Texas, large stretches of croplands in the U.S. Great Plains rely exclusively on rain. Those croplands are likely to face longer dry spells by mid-century.
At the end of April 2015, almost 60 percent of Oklahoma was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, and 30 percent of Texas was experiencing drought conditions. But according to the May drought outlook, conditions are likely to improve in the southern Plains this month.
A new analysis suggests that in the winter following a La Niña, dryness in California often deepens into drought. Consistent with that pattern, California’s current drought began in 2011-12, during the second year of a La Niña episode.
The spotlight may have been on California this past summer, but groundwater reservoirs—often the back-up for surface water supplies during prolonged drought—are in decline across much of the southern United States. Meanwhile, people are using millions of gallons of water per day in regions dependent on groundwater aquifers
On July 11, Lake Mead reached its lowest water level since construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. Many scientists are concerned that the prolonged drought could be a sign that the region will face significant water supply challenges due to climate change.
Since we last covered the California drought, conditions in the state have stayed, well, dry—very dry. Statewide, total precipitation is about equal to or below the lowest three-year period since 1895.