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When a drought is not a drought

A field lays fallow in Firebaugh, Calif., in the state's San Joaquin Valley.

Adriene Hill:Well today would ordinarily be one of the busiest days of the year at the nation's ski resorts, since it's the tail end of a holiday weekend. But the lack of snow across the west this year has made skiing impossible in many places. Some are wondering if we're officially in a drought.

Marketplace's Adriene Hill reports now on the official definition of drought.


Adriene Hill: Turns out drought is just like the markets. It's all about supply -- that's the rain -- but also demand. 

Mark Svoboda is a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Mark Svoboda: Drought is something just about different for everyone you talk to. There's no universal definition for drought.

In general, he says, drought starts with too little precipitation over a certain amount of time.

Svoboda: When that impacts you, that's when you're in a drought.

Those impacts have to do with precipitation, sure, but also other people.

David Miskus is a meteorologist with the Climate Prediction Center with the federal government.

David Miskus: Sometimes you can get normal rainfall, but if the demand is much higher than normal, you remove the reservoir much quicker than you think and they consider that a manmade drought.

Like the markets, drought is about scarcity and expectations. It's all about numbers and what they mean to us.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace. 

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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