The U.S. has been suffering from a drought since 2012. Initially, the drought was most severe in Texas. Subsequently, the Midwest north of Texas bore the brunt of the drought. But most recently California has been the focal point of the most severe dryness.
Droughts are tracked by the U.S. Drought Monitor here. Reports come out once a week on Thursdays. You can use the comparison feature of the website to see the changing impact of the drought. Here’s California in Feb of 2013 compared to Feb of 2014.
The Drought Scale has 5 levels (6 if you include “no drought” as a level)
D0 — Abnormally Dry [yellow]
D1 — Drought Moderate [light orange]
D2 — Drought Severe [dark orange]
D3 — Drought Extreme [red]
D4 — Drought Exceptional [dark red]
As you can see from the above map details, CA is now almost entirely engulfed in a severe to exceptional drought (D2 to D4). One year ago, the northern half of the state was not in a drought at all, and the southern half ranged in dryness from D0 to D2.
The effects on agriculture could be substantial, if the drought continues through the rest of winter and all of spring. Cattle ranchers are suffering the most, since they rely mainly on rainfed open lands to feed their cattle. Beef availability could eventually plunge, raising prices sharply. Many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables come from California. Again, supply and prices could be affected. See California Drought Brings Statewide Agricultural Impact.
Then there is the impact on CA wine country. According to a Salon article: “Growers are also worried about next year’s supplies. As a perennial plant, the grapevine takes two years to bear fruit, so buds that emerge this year won’t ripen until next year.” The result could be bad news for wine lovers, and economic collapse for some of the smaller vineyards.
Much of the rest of the nation is still affected by a moderate to severe drought. The dryness has eased somewhat since its Midwest peak in summer and fall of 2012. But spring weather will be critical. A dry spring could recreate the drought of 2012, resulting in a severe impact at the grocery store.
Please note that our advertiser, Ready Made Resources, is having a sale on Mountain House freeze-dried foods from Feb. 10th to the 16th. The freeze-drying process allows a wide range of foods to store well over a long period of time.