Sam Stebbins, Thomas C. Frohlich, Michael B. Sauter, and Evan Comen, 24/7 Wall St. via USA TODAY
(USA Today) — Although drought conditions have improved in many regions of the United States, higher than average summer temperatures and patchy rainfall over the summer has contributed to one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. There are currently at least 60 large fires burning across the country. So far this year, more than 8 million acres have been destroyed by fire, a level of devastation seen in only six other years since 1960.
It is the fourth consecutive year of drought for most of the western United States. The dry summer has raised particular concern about California, where 46% of land area is in a state of exceptional drought conditions — the worst level of drought — up slightly from the already especially bad drought level in the spring. This was the highest such share nationwide and the kind of water shortage that happens only once a century.
According to a study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years.”
Based on the most recent drought levels estimated as of the week ended Sept. 1 from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 24/7 Wall St. identified the eight states with the most widespread severe to exceptional drought conditions. During periods of severe drought or extreme drought, crop or pasture losses are likely, and water shortages and restrictions are common. During times of exceptional drought, these conditions are intensified and water shortages are considered water emergencies.