Maps of the day: Large parts of U.S. hit by drought


Every week in our DroughtWatch feature we graphically chronicle the state of California’s ongoing drought, the one Donald Trump claims is a fabrication.

But it’s not just California, as our maps of the day reveal, first in a pair from from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

blog-drought

More from NOAA:

Extremely warm temperatures across much of the United States in September and October 2016 have conspired with much lower than average precipitation in parts of the country to bring (or sustain) severe drought to three separate “hotspots” in early November.

Between California—still in drought after nearly 5 years—the Southeast, and New England, 11% of the contiguous United States (i.e., the Lower 48 states) was experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought as of November 8, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor project.

The maps at [above] show the drought status across the country as of November 8, 2016 [top] along with the outlook for the remainder of November [bottom]. The large versions of the maps [here and here] show Alaska and Hawaii. Of the country’s hardest hit areas, only inland areas of New England are likely to improve throughout the month. In the Southeast and Southern California, drought-stricken areas are likely to persist or worsen and possibly expand.

These maps are part of Climate.gov’s Data Snapshots map collection, which provides popular NOAA maps in variety of sizes and formats for easy re-use and sharing.

Drought brings massive fires to the U.S. Southeast

Our second two maps come from NASA’s Earth Observatory, the first a view from space with an overlay showing state boundaries:

blog-drought-se-sat

The story from NASA:

Wildfires in the southeastern United States are usually small and do not produce much smoke compared to the big blazes in the western United States, Canada, or Russia. But a cluster of fires in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky in November 2016 defied that trend.

On November 7, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite observed thick plumes of smoke streaming from forests in the southern Appalachians. Extreme drought fueled the outbreak of fires, and strong winds spread smoke broadly across the Southeast.

The ongoing—and in some areas record-breaking—drought began in May 2016 and intensified throughout the summer. By November, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed exceptional drought—the highest level on the scale—across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. All of the American Southeast, except for coastal areas, faced at least moderate drought.

blog-drought-se-map

The map above shows areas that have faced intense evaporative stress between October 6 and November 6, 2016, as represented by the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI). The ESI is not a measure of precipitation; rather, this dataset is based on observations of land surface temperatures (collected by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s geostationary satellites) and on observations of leaf area index from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The combination makes it possible to gauge evapotranspiration—how much water is evaporating from the land surface and from the leaves of plants. Measuring evapotranspiration is useful because unusually low evapotranspiration is an early indicator that plants are facing stress—even if the leaves have not wilted or turned brown yet.

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