It's a subject we hear a lot about these days in the news: Drought. According to drought.gov in March of 2022, over 58% of the lower 48 states are currently in a drought. With a collective global force greater than all other natural disasters in the past 40 years, droughts around the globe eventuate in as much deadly destruction as any other extreme weather event. Droughts can be declared in as few as 15 days and can last a week, a month, a year, or longer.
But what causes this "creeping disaster" and what, if anything, can people in a drought area do to mitigate its impact?
Drought is defined by prolonged lack of precipitation resulting in a considerable water shortage. Though naturally occurring, drought-producing conditions can be exacerbated by human activity, including water use/management and greenhouse gas emissions. It impacts developing and developed nations alike, but developing nations are far more susceptible to related damage and loss. There, drought can create water and food insecurity issues capable of further increasing problems related to civil unrest, famine, mass migration, and displacement.
The exact parameters of drought vary regionally based on normal weather and precipitation patterns for an area: tropical areas need far more rain than desert climes, so they suffer drought at a much faster rate. Drought can be traced to sources both natural - fluctuating ocean and land temperatures, altered weather patterns, high pressure, and reduced soil moisture - and manmade - climate change, excessive water demand, and deforestation and soil degradation. Additionally, droughts are characterized by their type:
- Meteorological - When rainfall is less than needed for a given region to remain stable.
- Agricultural - When water supplies fall short of meeting crop and livestock needs.
- Hydrological - When persistent lack of rainfall depletes surface and groundwater stores.
In the United States, drought is a costly and chronic reality, with at least one area of the country typically impacted at all times throughout the year. In fact, in 2012 the U.S. experienced a historic drought - the worst since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s - with nearly two-thirds of the country affected. California has a long and difficult history with drought: Decreased rainfall, combined with increased heat, in California between 2012 and 2016 caused what is considered the state's worst drought conditions in 1,200 years. Persistent drought, particularly in agricultural hubs throughout the U.S., can likewise create problematic water shortages, inflated food prices, and a host of regional problems.
While there was no evidence that worldwide drought was increasing when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 2013 report, global temperatures have increased and, with them, the prevalence of extreme weather patterns and events, such as drought. This, in turn, reduces snowpack and other stores that provide some protection against drought. In essence, the polarities are becoming more extreme: dry regions are becoming drier and wet regions, wetter. If temperatures continue to increase, these trends will as well.
So, while the weather might be uncontrollable, human actions are not. Doing our part to mitigate climate change by reducing our carbon footprints, while augmenting water conservation efforts with widespread recycling and reclamation, increased stormwater capture, and improved agricultural sector water management - will all help to shift the trajectory of future extreme weather patterns like drought.
For any questions, call or contact Executive Insurance & Financial Services today.