A megadrought worsened by climate change is creating and exacerbating problems across the West as NOAA predicts precipitation levels below historical norms through June. NOAA’s official spring outlook, released late last week, predicts expanding and worsening drought from Louisiana to Oregon and unusually warm temperatures in almost the entire country — which in turn make drought worse. “We are predicting prolonged and widespread drought,” National Weather Service Deputy Director Mary Erickson told the AP. “It’s definitely something we’re watching and very concerned about.”
Shrinking snowpack means even less water will be available for everything from drinking water to hydropower to irrigation, and reservoirs such as Lakes Mead and Powell are already at below-normal levels. Climate change exacerbates drought in multiple ways, including by creating weather patterns that, “leav[e] the southwestern states mostly warm, dry, and prone to wildfires,’’ Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, told Bloomberg.
“This year the fire season is starting early and ending later,” Lynnette Round, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire told Bloomberg. “The length of the fire season has extended 75 days across the Sierra.” (Drought: Bloomberg $; Spring outlook: AP, CNN, The Hill; Climate Signals background: Drought, Wildfires)