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Droughts Getting Worse in Southern U.S. and Somalia – TIME

September 29, 2011

Going Green

Drought Cripples the South: Why the ‘Creeping Disaster’ Could Get a Whole Lot Worse

By Bryan Walsh Tuesday, Aug. 09, 2011

A weed grows out of the dr,y cracked bed of O.C. Fisher Lake on July 25, 2011, in San Angelo, Texas. The 5,440-acre (2,200 hectares) lake, which was established to provide flood control and serve as a secondary drinking-water source for San Angelo and surrounding communities, is now dry following an extended drought in the region

Scott Olson / Getty ImagesPrint

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Hurricanes announce themselves on forecasters’ radar screens before slamming into an unlucky coast — all on live television. Tornadoes strike with little warning, but no one can doubt what’s going on the moment a black funnel cloud touches down. If we’re lucky, a tsunami offers a brief tip-off — the unnatural sight of the ocean retreating from the beach — before it cuts a swath of destruction and death.

But a drought is different. It begins with a few dry weeks strung end to end, cloudless skies and hot weather. Lawns brown as if toasted, and river and lake levels drop like puddles evaporating after the rain. Farmers worry over wilting crops as soil turns to useless dust. But for most of us, life goes on normally, the dry days in the background — until the moment we wake up and realize we’re living through a natural catastrophe. Weather experts like to call drought the “creeping disaster.” Though it destroys no property and yields no direct death toll, drought can cost billions of dollars, its effects lasting for months and even years. The writer Alex Prud’homme — author of a great new book on water called The Ripple Effect — compares drought to a “python, which slowly and inexorably squeezes its prey to death.”

(See “El Niño, La Niña, Climate Change and the Horrific Drought in Somalia.”)

This summer, the python has gripped much of the South, from the burned fringes of Arizona — singed by record-breaking wildfires — to usually swampy Georgia. Ground zero is Texas, which is suffering through the worst one-year drought on record, with the state receiving just 6 in. (15 cm) of rain since January. At the end of July, a record 12% of the continental U.S. was in a state of “exceptional drought” — the most severe ranking given by the National Drought Mitigation Center. More than 2 million acres (800,000 hectares) of farmland in Texas have been abandoned, streets are cracking as trees desperately draw the remaining moisture from the ground, and ranchers whose pasturelands have gone dry are selling off cattle by the thousands. “This historic drought has depleted water resources, leaving our state’s%

via Droughts Getting Worse in Southern U.S. and Somalia – TIME.

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