To most people, the definition of drought is along the lines of "not having rain for a long time." While this is mainly true, there are many aspects to a drought. For example, a drought in Texas would be much different from a drought in Maine.

There are four main types of drought:

  • an agricultural drought is the lack of moisture in the soil to meet the needs of a crop.
  • a meteorological drought is determined by a region's climate.
  • a socioeconomic drought is when water deficiency affects people.
  • a hydrological drought is one that deals with levels of lakes, reservoirs and groundwater levels.

The severity of droughts is often measured by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). The PDSI, which is most useful with long-term droughts, gauges dryness by using information regarding temperature and rainfall. Because it is standardized to local climate, it can be used nationwide.

If an area has normal conditions, a PDSI would be a 0. When drought conditions occur, the area would be represented on the scale as a negative number. For example, a moderate drought would range between -2 to -2.99, a severe drought would range between -3 to -3.99 and an extreme drought would be -4 and below on the PDSI scale. In addition to dryness, the guide can also be used to measure excess moisture. The scale is the same as the drought, but with positive numbers such as two for moderately moist.

Regardless of the type or severity, repercussions of a drought can be severe. The increased risk of wildfire, the possible loss of crops and livestock, the reduced recreation, and the negative impacts on wildlife habitats and other environmental consequences are all results of drought.

Some communities in the Brazos basin have already seen the initial effects of regional droughts resulting in burn bans and irrigation restrictions. Check with your local utility for possible watering restrictions.

Has a drought crept into your backyard? Click here for an up-to-date look at rainfall in your area.