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Lack of rainfall for an extended period of time can bring farmers and others to their knees. It does not take very long; in some locations, a few rain-free weeks can spread panic and affect crops. Before long, we are told to stop washing our cars, cease watering the grass, and take other water conservation steps. In this situation, our beautiful sunny weather is not always the best weather.
A drought is a period of unusually persistant dry weather that persists long enough to cause serious problems such as crop damage and/or water supply shortages. The severity of the drought depends upon the degree of moisturedeficiency, the duration, and the size of the affected area. Tracking drought blends science and art. No single definition of drought works for all circumstances, so people rely on drought indices to detect and measure droughts.
There are actually four different ways that drought can be defined:
- Meteorological - A measure of departure of precipitation from normal. Due to climatic differences, what might be considered a drought in one location of the country may not be a drought in another location.
- Agricultural - Refers to a situation where the amount of moisture in the soil no longer meets the needs of a particular crop.
- Hydrological - Occurs when surface and subsurface water supplies are below normal.
- Socioeconomic - Refers to the situation that occurs when physical water shortages begin to affect people.