Mar 18, 2022 - Energy & Environment

U.S. drought conditions to persist and expand

U.S. seasonal drought outlook
Data: NOAA; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

In an alarming new outlook, the National Weather Service said Thursday that drought conditions are likely to persist and even expand across a vast stretch of the country.

The big picture: As of March 15, drought extended across about 61% of the country, the greatest drought extent seen since 2013, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  • That figure may grow, with the official spring outlook, released Thursday, calling for "prolonged, persistent drought" in the West yet again.

Context: After a winter that featured record rain and snow for December in much of California, then switched to dry conditions since, much of the West is facing the prospect of heading into yet another warm season with precipitation deficits.

  • Lake Powell, in Arizona, fell below 3.525 feet this week, putting it at its lowest level since the lake was first filled more than 50 years ago.
  • Drought conditions are likely to worsen this summer in much of the West and the High Plains, as conditions favor warmer and drier temperatures.

The bottom line: The West is facing difficult water management decisions, along with heightened wildfire risks.

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