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Drought area in U.S. south now larger than in California

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

A new map released by the National Drought Mitigation Center presents a shocking image of the country: the area of the south now impacted by drought is larger than the portion of California that is under drought conditions.

Historically anomalous wildfires are currently burning in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, driven by the dry conditions. The inferno has been driven by high winds, some blowing at velocities in the range of 80-90 miles per hour, and has been burning for four days. The town of Gatlinburg has been significantly damaged by the fires.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed because multiple fires are burning there.

gsmnp-fires-nov-2016
Wildfires are shown in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, Nov. 29, 2016.
Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Altogether, wildfires are burning across at least 95,000 acres in seven southeastern states. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are 15 active conflagrations.

NDMC’s weekly report, released Nov. 23, indicates that only Florida and the coastal southeast are experiencing lower-than-average temperatures. A report by the Southeast Regional Climate Center released earlier in November said that precipitation in many parts of the region is running at 30-70 percent of normal. Describing current conditions in the interior southeast, NDMC said that dryness is ubiquitious:

“[H]undreds (at least 212) new fires have started in the Southeast, with 30 of them classified as large wildfires (100 acres or more), and burn bans were widespread across the region. Streams were at record and near-record low levels. Severe agricultural impacts (stock ponds drying up, winter feed being used to keep cattle alive since fall started) were widespread across the South and Southeast.”

us-drought-conidtions-nov-22-2016
This graphic shows U.S. drought conditions as of Nov. 22, 2016.
Graphic by Richard Heim, graphic courtesy National Centers for Environmental Information, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
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