Over 90% of the West threatened by historic drought that could extend into summer


More than 90% of the American West is in the grip of a historic and potentially deadly drought – and the summer of 2021 is just beginning.

A severe conditions map released Thursday by the US Drought Monitor – which was launched in 2000 and is produced through a partnership of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, US Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – showed the vast region in dire straits.


NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) reported that for the third week in a row, “extreme” and “exceptional” drought levels set a record, with 49.7% of the West in this category.

“The highest before the 2020/2021 drought was July 23, 2002, at 45.3%,” the agency noted in a tweet.

More than 58 million people are affected as the drought that has now lasted more than two decades worsens and several governors have declared a state of emergency as temperatures and the risk of forest fires rise.

Intense heat has hit the west in recent weeks, baking already brittle vegetation, drying up worrying empty tanks and shattering temperature records.

NOAA’s climate page described drought and heat as “natural dance partners,” with drought exacerbated when temperatures soar and vice versa.

A June 17 study published in the journal Nature Climate The change showed that soil moisture tended to drop on the hottest days in the southwest.


The drought is also due to the La Niña conditions, which were in place throughout the winter of 2020 to 2021.

NOAA noted that there is evidence that climate change has played a role in creating this reality – with heat waves occurring more often and for longer since the 1960s and temperatures steadily rising due to the release of greenhouse gases.

Scientists warned last year that the worst climate-induced “mega-droughts” could devastate the West, based on 1,200 years of tree-ring data, modern weather observations and 31 advanced climate models .

Rick Thielmann, chief pilot of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, releases water using a “Bambi Bucket” at the guzzler “pinball machine” in the Muddy Mountains in Clark County, Nevada on Tuesday, June 8 2021, during an emergency water transport operation. Although guzzlers are primarily used to help the bighorn sheep population in the area, they also provide water for a variety of animals that inhabit the area. (Chase Stevens / Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Over a thousand years ago, there is evidence that natural mega-droughts devastated the region on several occasions – often leading to social upheavals among indigenous civilizations.

Residents have been told to prepare for the impact and are advised to take precautionary measures this summer to protect against a myriad of worries.

Grasshoppers, which thrive in hot, arid weather, have taken over and are starting to strip the trees.

A number of Utah towns have banned fireworks before July 4, fearing devastating wildfires could start.

The Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is reportedly considering moving some species of fish to save them and removing bag limits for recreational fishermen.

New Mexico parks officials have closed boat ramps statewide as reservoirs dry up.

Water supply is a common problem in the West, with 1,500 California critical reservoirs below half of what they should be this time of year and Idaho’s water managers cutting off irrigation flows to farmers. Thousands of Golden State farmers have been warned they could suffer a similar fate.


Utah Governor Spencer Cox has urged residents and businesses to reduce their water use, issuing several drought-related executive orders.

“We are slowing down our press conferences on the pandemic, and we are heading straight for another disaster,” Cox told reporters earlier in June. “It’s been that kind of year for the state of Utah.”

“The hot ones are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dry ones are getting a lot drier,” California Governor Gavin Newsom told media in May. “We have a transportation system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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