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The Dangerous Impacts of Drought in the U.S.

What is drought?

A drought is a period of time when an area or region experiences below-normal precipitation. Resulting in a shortage of water resource. Droughts can vary in severity and duration and have significant impacts on the environment, agriculture, and society. They are characterized by a deficiency of rainfall or snowfall, leading to reduced soil moisture, diminished stream flow, crop damage, and water scarcity. Droughts can have far-reaching economic, environmental, and social consequences, making them a significant concern for affected areas.

How are droughts changing with climate change?

  1. Frequency and Severity

As the climate changes, the main change we notice is the temperature. In worldwide, the increasing temperature may destroy some fragile ecosystems, and for those already droughts, it makes it more severe. As the picture below, in the worst case, every 4 Celsius increase will cause approximately 4 possible droughts each ten years. And this is still the changing without the human activities. Deforestations, over extraction of ground water, Urbanizations, etc. It is predictable that the reality is much worse than we thought.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1260075/projected-agri-and-eco-droughts-global/

There are 6 categories for drought severity by The United States Drought Monitor (USDM). From none to D4, which is the sequence from no drought to exceptional drought. There are 6 categories for drought severity by The United States Drought Monitor (USDM). From none to D4, which is the sequence from no drought to exceptional drought. They applied this on the map to monitor drought features like severity, area, duration, etc.  Just in the U.S., there are about half of the land under at least D2 which is a severe drought. It is mainly concentrated in the south-central and west.

By USDM;  July,26,2022
  1. Alter Precipitation Patterns

Climate change can disrupt traditional precipitation patterns, leading to shifts in the timing and distribution of rainfall. This can result in irregular wet and dry seasons, making it challenging for ecosystems and water resources to adapt. For the normal precipitation pattern, Precipitation (rain or snow) falls in uneven patterns across the country. The amount of precipitation at a particular location varies from year to year, but over a period of years, the average amount is fairly constant. But this balance can be broken by some factors. For example, over evaporation and plant growth season, which means an amount of water loss in the cycle. That’s how droughts are formed. The process takes a long time, so several weeks, months, or even years may pass before people realize it. Once the drought sets in, a single rainstorm will not even break the drought, but it may provide temporary relief.

What are the impacts?

  1. Agriculture

In my perspective, the most threatening one is the impact on agriculture. The reason is it relates to my country. I am from China, my country has the largest population in the world, which means it requires an enormous amount of grain reserve and output every year. But due to climate change, just in one year, more than 50 billion kilograms of grain were lost due to meteorological disasters, of which drought is the biggest loss, accounting for about 60% of the total loss. On the other side of the planet, a protracted and severe drought that struck the U.S. Caribbean from 2014 to 2016 affected a wide range of crops, including grass, plantains, and coffee. Farmers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands lost millions of dollars’ worth of crops, making it harder for them to recover from the hurricanes that struck later in 2017.

  1. Wildfires

Drought also causes wildfires, it may not be the direct factor, but heat waves, drought, or El Nino are the necessary conditions to cause a wildfire. In 2019-2020, due to the long period of heat waves and drought, lightning started a fire that is considered the worst wildfire on record. The University of Sydney estimates that more than 1 billion animals across the country have been killed by the ongoing fires. Macquarie University estimates that billions of animals, including bats, amphibians and insects, died in the fire. In the north, Canada wildfire had a striking similarity. Blazes burned about 18.4 million hectares of land area. Meanwhile, its smoke affected the northern east U.S. for days.

How can we stop droughts?

In detail, we need to stop overuse first. There are cities that already have programs using water-saving devices. Also, if we can replace the normal plants by xeriscaping to save water.  It means using only plants from the native area where we live, and these plants usually grow with less water. The last is water pollution prevention, it is extremely important because there are countless kinds of chemicals that can pollute our water resources. There is even country releasing nuclear wastewater into the ocean. Back to the starting point, climate change is resulting in so many different environmental problems, it is also an inescapable responsibility of every country. As individuals, we should keep working on our part against climate change.

featured image: https://www.wkbn.com/weather/drought-conditions-are-only-a-state-away-where-do-we-stand/

References

https://www-statista-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/statistics/1260075/projected-agri-and-eco-droughts-global/

https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/About/WhatistheUSDM.aspx

https://drought.unl.edu/archive/Documents/FactSheets/USDM-trifold-brochure-2022-print.pdf

https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/droughts-things-know

https://www.usgs.gov/programs/climate-adaptation-science-centers/drought-impacts-crops-us-caribbean

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/151985/tracking-canadas-extreme-2023-fire-season

https://drought.unl.edu/Education/DroughtforKids/Protection.aspx

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