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An exposed, dry lakebed in California, April 2021. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared an emergency executive order for two counties Wednesday, in order to accelerate the response to drought conditions affecting the northern part of the state.

Why it matters: California is in the second year of drought conditions, and the state is bracing for another potentially devastating fire season.

  • "Newsom has been under pressure from some quarters to declare a statewide drought emergency. But the administration favors a more targeted approach," the Los Angeles Times noted.

Details: The emergency order applies to Mendocino and Sonoma counties, but could be expanded to other parts of the state if conditions call for it, Newsom said at a press conference Wednesday.

  • The declaration allows the state to move more quickly to regulate water usage in the state as well as to "accelerate funding for water supply enhancement."
  • Newsom warned that drought problems are not unique to California, adding that "drought conditions persist across the West coast of the United States."

The big picture: The National Climate Task Force briefed White House officials Wednesday about drought conditions on the West Coast.

  • The task force warned of the economic and communal costs of drought-caused wildfires and discussed conservation investments that can improve drought resilience, the White House said.

Go deeper: Drought stokes fears of severe fire season in West

Go deeper

For FEMA head, trip to wildfire regions reaffirms drive to address climate change

A firefighter crew from New Mexico walks along a path in the mountains west of Paisley, Oregon on July 23, 2021. Photo: Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images

FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell's first trip out West since being confirmed in April reinforced her view that the agency must tackle climate change's influence on disasters, such as wildfires and droughts.

Why it matters: FEMA is the lead agency for providing aid to states hit hard by ongoing fires, already approving 19 Fire Management Assistance Grants. The trip illustrated the present-day impacts of climate change, with the twin challenges of fires and drought plainly evident, she told Axios.

Heat dome sends temperatures soaring from Oregon to Louisiana

Forecast maximum temperatures (darker red shading represents the hottest temperatures, in the upper 90s to low 100s, Fahrenheit). July 29. Image: WeatherBell

The Pacific Northwest is once again in the midst of a heat wave after already seeing its worst such event on record this summer. Temperatures are soaring into the low 100s in some areas, while dangerous heat is also affecting the South Central states and Gulf Coast.

Why it matters: The occurrence of yet another heat wave during a drought in the West is ratcheting up wildfire risks. The heat itself is a major public health risk, as extreme heat is typically the biggest annual weather-related cause of mortality in the U.S.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.