Western U.S. states are experiencing the worst drought in the past century. Figures released by the U.S Drought Monitor show that 93% of the land in seven Western states is under drought. Further, about 59% of the land is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. These figures are the worst conditions recorded in the past 100 years.

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Before this year, the standing figure for the amount of Western land in extreme or exceptional drought was 43%, set in 2003. The extreme drought conditions experienced this year in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon and most parts of Utah are the worst in a century.

The extreme drought conditions pose risks of widespread fires and food shortages. The National Interagency Fire Centre has issued a warning that those living in Western states should be careful and watchful due to the high risk of wildfire outbreaks. Residents have been urged to remain vigilant over the next three months to avoid serious fires and losses.

“Last year, we had a lot of wildfire and a lot of smoke. It would be very surprising if that did not happen again this year,” said Douglas Kluck, NOAA’s director of regional climate services in Kansas City.

The threat of food shortages and farming losses has also been highlighted. Agriculture Department data shows that the extreme weather threatens several crops. Among the crops at risk are sunflowers, barley and wheat. The data further shows that the drought’s effects may be felt as far as Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.

Dennis Todey, director of the USDA’s Midwest Climate Hub, has warned that conditions are not looking good for the North either. “We have huge concerns up in the northern Plains. Conditions are not good.”

To deal with the high risk of forest fires, several national forests have imposed new rules that limit human activities within the forests. At least eight national forests in the seven Western states have imposed fire restrictions. Further, fishing is prohibited in several rivers due to low water levels.

Via Scientific American

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