The Western US has been suffering from a drought for quite some time. In its wake, the environment is drying up, which is one of the reasons why forest fires in California are becoming more destructive.
And sadly, there is no end in sight.
In fact, it’s looking like it may get worse. In the United States, we have four categories of drought that include moderate, severe, extreme, and exceptional. Currently, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah are in facing an exceptional drought.
Not only is this putting pressure on plants and wildlife, but it is also causing much stricter water management in some of these areas.
Snowpack Is A Huge Issue
One of the main factors in the western drought is the is the lack of snowpack.
In dry areas, like the western US, mountains are a crucial source of water via snowfall. During the winter, snow accumulates on the mountains, and once spring comes around, the snow begins to melt. That water finds its way into streams and rivers.
However, as a result of climate change, the temperatures are increasing. That is making it difficult for major snowstorms to happen. This is, of course, seriously impacting the amount of water snowpack generates.
Even if it does snow, the temperatures may rise high enough to melt the snow before the spring. Thus, when the areas need water the most, it’s not there.
Expect More Forest Fires
While snowpack is extremely important, it doesn’t help forests as much. Instead, they rely on rainstorms and summer monsoons to ensure these forests get the water they need.
Not only do these rainstorms ensure that forests get the water they need, but they also ensure that the smaller plants and the ground of the forest are wet.
Otherwise, without proper forest cleanup, the floor of forests is filled with dried-up branches and shrubs.
These dried-out forests are easily susceptible to fires, and when we combine this with rising temperatures, it’s a recipe for disaster. In 2020, California suffered the worst fire season in its history.
Over 4.2 million acres, or more than 4% of the forests were lost to fire. And with no relief in sight, 2021 may be even more devastating.
The La Niña is Not Helping the Western Drought
Currently, we are seeing La Niña in action. During the winter, this typically results in drier and milder conditions, which are not going to help these regions at all. In fact, fire conditions will worsen, and the snowpack will be impacted greatly.
This year, the central Rockies are somewhere between 70 and 90% of normal snowpack levels.
To end the drought, the snow levels would have to be close to 125% of normal. For reference, Washington State saw snowpack levels of 150% the normal, so it is completely possible to go beyond 100%.
Western Drought Is Tough On Agriculture
This drought is very harsh on the agriculture sector. For instance, California has already seen that snowpack is insufficient for normal water allocation. Thus, agriculture will have less water to work with.
This doesn’t just affect farmers either.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.