Researchers at the University of Nebraska hope to address some misunderstandings about drought and raise awareness of its serious consequences.
Climatologist Deborah Bathke at the National Drought Mitigation Center says few people truly understand drought, often merely assessing whether we have had a dry year or a wet year.
“One of the challenges with drought is that people tend to think of drought as this abnormal event; it’s this rare, random event, maybe like a tornado or something like that. Whereas, drought’s really a regular feature of the climate,” Bathke tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Bathke says few people realize how often drought occurs. She says the Drought Mitigation Center, located on the University of Nebraska East Campus in Lincoln, counts 16 drought episodes in the United States over the past 100 years.
Drought has plagued the southwestern portion of the United States of late, hitting Texas especially hard.
California remains in the grip of a prolonged drought. Bathke says no one really knows what long-term impact that drought will have on the California environment once it finally ends. California is such an important part of the economy, the drought there has implications for the rest of the country and even the world which have yet to be calculated, according to Bathke.
The long-term impact of drought sometimes aren’t attributed to drought, according to Denise Bulling at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center.
“So, for example, an increase in wildfires. It may be seen as a wildfire disaster, but in reality, it’s related somewhat to a drought,” according to Bulling.
Researchers say Nebraskans have a bit more awareness of the impact of drought, because of the importance of agriculture on the state economy.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]