Energy

A Record Low Percentage Of The U.S. In ‘Severe Drought’

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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Only 1.1 percent of the U.S. is considered to be in “severe” drought or greater, which is the lowest percent since records began nearly two decades ago.

Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach tweeted the news Thursday, noting the record-low percentage.

One year ago, nearly 6 percent of the U.S. was in a “severe” drought or worse — the next level being “extreme” followed by “exceptional” — according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

At the start of 2017, about 10 percent of the country was in drought, mostly from the four-year-long drought in California. Droughts in the southeastern U.S. and northeastern states also added to the percentage of the country locked in severe drought.

Heavy rains hit California in February and largely brought the Golden State out of drought. Three months ago, more than half of California was in severe drought or worse — currently, only 8 percent of the state is in drought.

The rains came as a surprise to media outlets, which had written numerous articles on California’s “permanent” or “unending” drought.

California Braces for Unending Drought,” The New York Times reported in May 2016. Wired reported that same month: “Thanks El Niño, But California’s Drought Is Probably Forever.”

California’s drought began in 2012, and pushed rain and snowfall levels to their lowest on record. The state saw its three warmest years on record (2014, 2015 and 2016), and the Sierra-Cascades mountains saw their lowest snowpack on record, about 5 percent of normal.

But a series of rain and snow storms struck Northern California earlier this year and dumped more than 350 billion gallons of water into California reservoirs.

A few more weeks with rain and snow filled eight of 10 major state reservoirs to well above average.

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