Drought is creeping back into the country, proving that it will take more than one or two wet systems to get rid of persistent dryness.
According to the latest “Drought Monitor” report released on Thursday, nearly one-third of the contiguous U.S. is in moderate or worse drought as of Dec. 17. As has been the case for the past several months, the worst of the drought continues in many western states.
In California, 94 percent of the state is in moderate to extreme drought. Drought has dominated the state since late April, when conditions jumped from 48 percent in moderate or severe drought to 63 percent. Within two weeks, the drought intensity spread to 98 percent.
Now, officials from four San Joaquin Valley (Calif.) water agencies have joined state and federal lawmakers to pressure the president and governor to declare a drought emergency as the state faces another dry winter, according to The Bakersfield Californian.
However, Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the state Department of Water Resources, said it's too soon to do that.
"We'll take January's and February's precipitation into account, and then consider whether we feel a proclamation or a declaration is in order," Vogel said. "I think the last time there was a federal drought emergency drought proclamation was in the 1980s. That's because you don't get a federal proclamation until a state has exhausted its own resources."
Other states further to the east are also facing persistent drought. Though conditions were cooler than average, the Texas panhandle and southwestern Oklahoma in particular are battling drought conditions.
“Scattered pockets of increases and/or introductions of [moderate to extreme drought] are noted in both states given the continued dryness of late on top of long-term (12- to 36-months) dryness, which has left behind dry stock ponds and slowed winter wheat and pasture growth/recovery,” the report said.
The National Weather Service’s Seasonal Drought Outlook shows that for many areas currently battling the drought won’t be seeing relief soon. Even pockets of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – caught earlier this year in a so-called “flash drought” – may see a return to dryness. See the outlook here.