It’s going to be really, really dry this year, out west.
After enduring last summer’s destructive drought, farmers, ranchers and officials across the parched Western states had hoped that plentiful winter snows would replenish the ground and refill their rivers, breaking the grip of one of the worst dry spells in American history. No such luck.
Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.
Reservoir levels have fallen sharply in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. The soil is drier than normal. And while a few recent snowstorms have cheered skiers, the snowpack is so thin in parts of Colorado that the government has declared an “extreme drought” around the ski havens of Vail and Aspen.
“We’re worse off than we were a year ago,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center.
The only good news is that this could be the tinder to set a fire under Washington’s ass, and Obama’s. People have come to accept the direct connection between climate change and weather calamities like Hurricane Sandy and the Drought of 2013. Obama will have to take serious action, because this year is going to be even drier that the last two, and American food production will be seriously impacted.
And it’s going to be really bad:
“A year ago we went into the spring season with most of the reservoirs full,” Mr. Hungenberg said. “This year, you’re going in with basically everything empty.”
National and state forecasters — some of whom now end phone calls by saying, “Pray for snow” — do have some hope. An especially wet springtime could still spare the Western plains and mountains and prime the soil for planting. But forecasts are murky: They predict warmer weather and less precipitation across the West over the next three months but say the Midwest could see more rain than usual.
Water experts get more nervous with each passing day.
“We’re running out of time,” said Andy Pineda of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We only have a month or two, and we are so far behind it’s going to take storms of epic amounts just to get us back to what we would think of as normal.”
And storms of epic amounts would lead to flooding, especially damaging since the ground is so dry.
We are going to see a lot of farmers quitting the land, and moving away from the dry dusty middle of the continent. Moving back to the Ohio and Hudson River valleys, I bet.