What the Devastating Droughts in California and Texas Look Like When Graphed

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Two of the most severe droughts in recent history — California now and Texas in 2011 and 2012 — are immediately obvious when graphed. And seen that way, it's not clear that we should expect California's drought to end any time soon.

At this point, all of California is in a state of drought — as it has been for seven of the past nine weeks. (Wondering how the government figures this out? We have you covered.) Over that time, the drought has intensified.

What's worse, as Mashable reports, its already-thin snowpack has melted faster than expected. That snowpack is like a savings account for the state, holding winter precipitation in higher, cooler temperatures to melt and keep California hydrated during the hot summers. On April 1, Andrew Freeman writes, the water content of the state's snowpack was at 32 percent the norm. In the past week, thanks to above-average temperatures, half of the water equivalent of the snowpack in the vital Sierra Nevada mountains had already melted.

Drought Monitor

As Freeman notes, California isn't alone in experiencing drought. According to the USDA Drought Monitor, 70 percent of the American west is experiencing some level of drought, rated on a scale from D0 to D4. In California, though, it's at its worst, with almost a quarter of the state at the highest level of drought.

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Compare that with Texas. Today Texas — normally a drier state than California — has only 7 percent of its area experiencing D4 drought, mostly in the panhandle. In October 2011, that figure was substantially higher. At that point, 88 percent of the state was in the most severe state of drought, at the apex of the state's devastating dryness. Over its run, the drought cost Texas $8 billion in agricultural losses according to a 2012 estimate.

The Drought Monitor provides weekly data for each state going back to January 2000. We took that data and graphed it, below. The redder the section of the graph, the more severe the type of drought. You'll immediately notice the Texas drought. And you can compare it to California's, at the very bottom. It got bad quickly and hasn't gotten better.

The news about California's snow is very bad. The news that the drought isn't substantially improving is perhaps worse.


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.