The U.S. Drought Monitor reports July 28 that drought intensified in the Western U.S. as the region bakes under record-setting heat and firefighters battle large wildfires.
The hot, mostly dry conditions brought "an expansion of short-term drought in the south-central U.S. and contributed to an increase in wildfire activity in parts of the West."
On July 28, the National Interagency Fire Center reported there were 21 large, active wildfires in 11 states covering more than 174,000 acres. More than 3.1 million acres have burned so far in 2016.
"Heat also returned to southern California, where record-setting highs for July 23 rose to 110°F in Riverside and 108°F in Campo," the Drought Center notes. "By July 26, two wildfires in California were of particular concern: the 38,000-acre Sand Fire near Santa Clarita and the 27,000-acre Soberanes Fire near Big Sur."
The percentage of drought intensity increased in the Western U.S. in the past week. Abnormally dry conditions cover 72 percent of the region, up 4 percent from the previous week. Moderate drought is 31 percent (up 2 percent) and severe drought covers 11 percent of the region.
Those numbers are substantially higher in California, with 100 percent abnormally dry, 83 percent moderate, 59 percent severe, 42 percent extreme and 21 percent of the state in exceptional drought.
"Some of the West’s most significant short-term drought covered the Black Hills and adjacent areas, where moderate to extreme drought (D1 to D3) persisted," the weekly report says. "For much of the Southwest, the trend was toward increasing drought coverage and intensity, in part due to hot weather. On July 19, Salt Lake City, Utah, noted its first-ever minimum temperature above the 80-degree mark—the low was 81°F—with records dating to 1874."