What is a drought?
A drought is defined as "a period of abnormally dry weather sufficiently prolonged for the lack of water to cause serious hydrologic imbalance in the affected area." -Glossary of Meteorology (1959).
In easier to understand terms, a drought is a period of unusually persistent dry weather that persists long enough to cause serious problems such as crop damage and/or water supply shortages. The severity of the drought depends upon the degree of moisture deficiency, the duration, and the size of the affected area.
There are actually four different ways that drought can be defined.
What are the impacts of a drought?
Lack of rainfall for an extended period of time can bring farmers and metropolitan areas to their knees. It does not take very long; in some locations of the country, a few rain-free weeks can spread panic and affect crops. Before long, we are told to stop washing our cars, cease watering the grass, and take other water conservation steps. In this situation, sunny weather is not always the best weather.
The worst drought in 50 years affected at least 35 states during the long hot summer of 1988. In some areas the lack of rainfall dated back to 1984. In 1988, rainfall totals over the Midwest, Northern Plains, and the Rockies were 50-85% below normal. Crops and livestock died and some areas became desert. Forest fires began over the Northwest and by autumn, 4,100,000 acres had been burned. A government policy called "Let Burn" was in effect for Yellowstone National Park. The result? Half of the park--2,100,000 acres were charred when a huge forest fire developed.
How do meteorologists predict droughts?
Meteorologists determine the onset and the end of a drought by carefully monitoring meteorological and hydrological variables such as precipitation patterns, soil moisture, and stream flow. To do this, meteorologists make use of various indices that show deficits in precipitation over periods of time.
How can I find out more about drought?
There is a lot of information on the internet regarding drought and its impacts on society. Those links provided below are only a few of the locations elsewhere on the web where you can find more information regarding drought and which locations currently are experiencing a drought.