Continued U.S. drought a bad sign for upcoming summer, could be linked to climate change

February 23rd, 2013 at 10:54 am by under Weather

As KXAN meteorologist Natalie Stoll reported, the drought in central Texas continues to worsen as drier-than-normal conditions have persisted this winter and are expected to continue through the spring.

All of central Texas is currently experiencing some degree of drought, with most of the area in moderate to severe drought conditions.

Texas’ latest drought conditions, courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor

The ongoing drought has not been confined to central Texas.

A handful of states from the Rocky Mountains through the central Plains are currently in the most severe (exceptional) drought category.

Thin winter snowpack near Vail. Photo courtesy of Matthew Staver, NY Times

Many hoped that heavy winter snowfall in the Rockies and Great Plains would ease the devastating drought conditions the area endured last summer, but mother nature has not risen to the task.

As the New York Times recently reported, lacking mountain snowpack and dangerously low reservoir levels have meteorologists and water planning experts alike worried that this summer could bring more destructive wildfires and even larger crop losses than what the area weathered last summer.

According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook for the upcoming months, drought is expected to continue or worsen from Texas to South Dakota, and California to Kansas.

The seasonal drought outlook, courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center

This ongoing drought already ranks as the worst in both severity and geographical extent since the 1950s. And as the drought is expected to intensify through the spring, experts have a grim outlook.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently said the drought “will probably end up being a top-five [costliest] disaster event” of the last three decades.

Some scientists, such as Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, are connecting the dots between the current drought situation and global climate change.

Nielsen-Gammon, a professor of meteorology, suggests that the overall warmer climate caused by human-induced global warming has amplified the severe drought by triggering more intense heat during the spring and summer of 2012. The warmer temperatures evaporate more moisture from the soil, thus worsening the drought.

Read more on climate change’s possible connections to current U.S. weather events at Climate Central.

To learn more about the science behind climate change, as well as how human activities are contributing, click over to Climate Change Basics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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