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Response Committee announces drought stages for Silver State as a whole.
Photo: Courtesy University of Nevada, Reno
Nevada’s Drought Response Committee announced in May all Nevada counties as being on either drought alert or drought watch with 11 counties classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor as under severe drought and six counties under moderate drought. The committee is organizing and activating three regional task forces to address the drought impacts in local and regional areas to begin gathering information about local plans, needs, vulnerabilities, and available resources.
The Drought Response Committee, made up of representatives of the Nevada State Climate Office of the University of Nevada, Reno, Division of Emergency Management and Division of Water Resources, identified the following counties as currently being in Drought Alert (Stage 2): Churchill, Clark, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Pershing, Storey, Washoe, and White Pine. The following counties were identified as being in Drought Watch (Stage 1): Carson, Douglas, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, and Nye.
“Activating the regional task forces will help us to monitor conditions in each county as we move into the dry summer season,” says Kate Berry, associate professor in the Department of Geography and acting Nevada State Climatologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. “There are many variables, differing in each region, which must be considered.”
The drought task forces will gather data to assess actual and projected impacts on the state’s economy, agriculture, fish and wildlife, or other resources in the areas impacted by the drought. Factors under consideration include meteorological, hydrological, agricultural, and socioeconomic conditions.
The task forces will report regularly to the Drought Response Committee with details concerning the drought extent, magnitude, and impacts and provide information about drought mitigation measures being taken by public agencies or private individuals or organizations. The drought notification process is outlined in the newly revised Nevada State Drought Response Plan.
“The plan clarifies and updates the approach to interagency coordination in responding to drought in the state,” says Berry, who spearheaded the initiative to update the drought response plan, which had not been revised since 2003. “Following Nevada’s dry winter, the plan offers a fresh approach to analyzing and responding to these dry conditions across the state.”
2012 has been historically dry for Nevada, as Lake Tahoe reached its maximum level in early June. That doesn’t happen in the wettest years until late August.
University of Nevada, Reno scientists confirm Sierra Nevada Medieval megadroughts
Reno, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra Nevada are no strangers to drought, the most famous being the Medieval megadrought lasting from 800 to 1250 A.D. when annual precipitation was less than 60 percent of normal. The Reno-Tahoe region is now about 65 percent of annual normal precipitation for the year, which doesn’t seem like much, but imagine if this were the “norm” each and every year for the next 200 years.
Research by scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno and their partners at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego indicates that there are other instances of such long-lasting, severe droughts in the western United States throughout history.
Their recent paper, a culmination of a comprehensive high-tech assessment of Fallen Leaf Lake—a small moraine-bound lake at the south end of the Lake Tahoe Basin—reports that stands of pre-Medieval trees in the lake suggest the region experienced severe drought at least every 650 to 1,150 years during the mid- and late-Holocene period.
“Using an arsenal of cutting edge sonar tools, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and a manned submersible, we’ve obtained potentially the most accurate record thus far on the instances of 200-year-long droughts in the Sierra,” Graham Kent (pictured at left), director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory said. “The record from Fallen Leaf Lake confirms what was expected and is likely the most accurate record, in terms of precipitation, than obtained previously from a variety of methods throughout the Sierra.”
Kent is part of the University of Nevada, Reno and Scripps research team that traced the megadroughts and dry spells of the region using tree-ring analysis, shoreline records, and sediment deposition in Fallen Leaf Lake.