Ask Ellen: What are the different levels of drought?

Ask Ellen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan is currently in “moderate drought” after months of below-average precipitation. This comes after the wettest one-, three- and five-year period on record for our state.

The switch has been beneficial for our Great Lakes water levels, which were getting dangerously high. However, the turn to drought could start impacting our crops.

This week’s question from Randy is, “Can you explain the different levels of drought?” So here they are!

ABNORMALLY DRY

Before a drought is officially declared, it first must be considered to be abnormally dry. For any area in the United States, this is determined by the degree of dryness or rainfall deficit and the length of the dry period. Impacts from abnormally dry conditions are typically a slowing of planting or growth in crops.

MODERATE DROUGHT

The next phase in the drought progression is moderate drought. This is the stage most of Michigan is currently in. This means, if it persists (which it appears it will), we should anticipate some damage to crops or pastures and lower streams or rivers.

SEVERE DROUGHT

When drought conditions continue to persist and the ground is robbed of even more moisture, severe drought unfolds. This usually leads to the expectation of crop loss, and some mandatory water instructions are imposed to help protect the water that remains.

EXTREME DROUGHT

The next stage of drought can result in major crop losses. Extreme drought leads to widespread water shortages. Currently, there are several states in the Western U.S. and the Dakotas that are enduring extreme drought.

EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT

This is the most intense of the drought categories and currently, several states in the desert southwest are in exceptional drought. This leads to water emergencies and exceptional crop and pasture damage.

Very little rain is in the 8-Day Forecast with typical May-like weather expected through at least May 20!

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