When a drought is not a drought

Adriene Hill Jan 16, 2012

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. 

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