Re: expanding U.S. drought
Agricultural drought links various characteristics of meteorological (or hydrological) drought to agricultural impacts, focusing on precipitation shortages, differences between actual and potential evapotranspiration, soil water deficits, reduced ground water or reservoir levels, and so forth. Plant water demand depends on prevailing weather conditions, biological characteristics of the specific plant, its stage of growth, and the physical and biological properties of the soil. A good definition of agricultural drought should be able to account for the variable susceptibility of crops during different stages of crop development, from emergence to maturity. Deficient topsoil moisture at planting may hinder germination, leading to low plant populations per hectare and a reduction of final yield. However, if topsoil moisture is sufficient for early growth requirements, deficiencies in subsoil moisture at this early stage may not affect final yield if subsoil moisture is replenished as the growing season progresses or if rainfall meets plant water needs.
Hydrological drought is associated with the effects of periods of precipitation (including snowfall) shortfalls on surface or subsurface water supply (i.e., streamflow, reservoir and lake levels, ground water). The frequency and severity of hydrological drought is often defined on a watershed or river basin scale. Although all droughts originate with a deficiency of precipitation, hydrologists are more concerned with how this deficiency plays out through the hydrologic system. Hydrological droughts are usually out of phase with or lag the occurrence of meteorological and agricultural droughts. It takes longer for precipitation deficiencies to show up in components of the hydrological system such as soil moisture, streamflow, and ground water and reservoir levels. As a result, these impacts are out of phase with impacts in other economic sectors. For example, a precipitation deficiency may result in a rapid depletion of soil moisture that is almost immediately discernible to agriculturalists, but the impact of this deficiency on reservoir levels may not affect hydroelectric power production or recreational uses for many months. Also, water in hydrologic storage systems (e.g., reservoirs, rivers) is often used for multiple and competing purposes (e.g., flood control, irrigation, recreation, navigation, hydropower, wildlife habitat), further complicating the sequence and quantification of impacts. Competition for water in these storage systems escalates during drought and conflicts between water users increase significantly.