Map Lab Science Graphic Of The Week: Map Shows Half Of The U.S. Suffering Drought Conditions

Betsy Mason | Wired | May 15, 2014

It’s not just California’s problem. Nearly half of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions right now. The worst spots shown in the map above, colored in a deep red that represents “exceptional drought,” are in California, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. But the entire west and southwest are suffering.

The map is based on a report from May 6 provided by the United States Drought Monitor that includes data on climate, soil and water collected from more than 350 sources. It looks like our pals at NASA’s Earth Observatory worked their magic to make the map more attractive and easier to read with a better ramped color scheme and less obtrusive state boundaries.

As scary as the map is, it doesn’t convey the true severity of the situation because the impacts are cumulative from several years of drought, particularly in the southwest centered on Northern Texas. You can compare the last 10 years of conditions in May in the animation below...