Recent hot and dry conditions have only fueled the seemingly endless drought that’s pummeling the U.S. for months. October saw higher-than-average temperatures and lower-than-average precipitation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this week.
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February 1938 WAS a wet month in Los Angeles. The ground, where it hadn’t been paved over, was saturated, which meant rain had nowhere to go except into the streets, canals and washes. On the 27th, a storm arrived. During the following days, the city received its second-highest 24-hour rainfall in history. Reservoirs overflowed, dams topped out and floodwaters careered down Pacoima Wash and Tujunga Wash toward the Los Angeles River. By the time the river peaked at Long Beach, its flow exceeded the Mississippi’s at St. Louis. “It was as if the Pacific had moved in to take back its ancient bed,” wrote Rupert Hughes in “City of Angels,” a 1941 novel that climaxes with the flood. In an instant, the Lankershim Bridge in North Hollywood collapsed, and five people were swept away. Sewer and gas lines ruptured; communications were cut; houses were lifted straight off their foundations and sank into the water. In all, 87 people died.
The strange, barren spots pepper the vast Namib Desert, which stretches from southern Angola to northern South Africa. They are known as “fairy circles,” and for a natural phenomenon with such a whimsical name, scientific debates over their origins have been heated.
Over several days this past week, Washington Post climate reporter Brady Dennis drove more than 400 miles in five states, from Memphis to Cairo, Ill., talking with people whose lives and livelihoods are inextricably linked to the Mississippi River and with people who had come to marvel at how drastically the ongoing drought has weakened it.
Sandra Nelson crouched at a spot of riverbed that would normally be deep underwater, gathering rocks and jars of soil as souvenirs. Nearby, a man with a metal detector roamed the barren ground for treasures at twilight. A father carried his daughter on his shoulders to witness a sight not seen for generations.
After a slow start to summer in Seattle – with temperatures consistently running below normal for the month of June – a huge change happened in July and the city has been sizzling since.
“Sunday was our latest … 80-plus-degree day on record in Seattle,” Maddie Kristell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the city told CNN. The temperature reached a scorching 88 degrees.
The Mississippi River is flowing at its lowest level in at least a decade, and until rain relieves a worsening drought in the region, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain water levels high enough to carry critical exports from the nation’s bread basket.
Drought that stretched across three continents this summer — drying out large parts of Europe, the United States and China — was made 20 times more likely by climate change, according to a new study. Drought dried up major rivers, destroyed crops, sparked wildfire, threatened aquatic species and led to water restrictions in Europe. It struck places already plagued by drying in the U.S., like the West, but also places where drought is more rare, like the Northeast. China also just had its driest summer in 60 years, leaving its famous Yangtze river half its normal width.
Beset by Drought, a West Texas Farmer Loses His Cotton Crop and Fears a Hotter and Drier Future State Water Planners Aren’t Considering
Climate change is helping fuel the drought, but the state’s political leaders won’t take global warming into account in their water management. “Climate change has become politicized,” says Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.
The state’s water year ends tomorrow, which has prompted predictions about what’s in store for the next 12 months. (California’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, so that the winter rainy season falls within a single water year.)