First-ever extreme drought recorded in Southeast Alaska
One of America's northernmost rainforests is experiencing an extreme drought for the first time in recorded history.
Southeast Alaska is typically the wettest region in the state, but for nearly a year, the lack of rainfall has led to a growing drought problem.
For several weeks, a persistent high pressure system has kept parts of Southeast dry. This recent pattern, combined with several months of less than normal rainfall forced the drought to be upgraded to "extreme," which is the second-highest of five levels.
While the current drought conditions are the most significant in the nearly 20-year history of the drought monitor, the National Weather Service out of Juneau says previously there have been significantly drier years where droughts lasted longer. The most significant period for droughts across Southeast Alaska occurred during the late 80s into the early 90s, however, there was no official monitoring system for droughts until 2000.
According to the drought monitor, which is updated weekly, the areas impacted the most are Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell and Metlakatla.
A summary of the drought across Southeast shows the biggest impacts are to Salal and Hemlock, which is the third-largest area of damage in the nearly 50 years of data for the region. The lack of rain has also impacted reservoirs across Southeast, which typically rely on hydroelectric power. Lower water levels are forcing communities to switch to diesel and implement water restrictions.
Southeast Alaska will likely see rain showers for the first week of June, however, accumulations will be light. Right now, there is no end in sight for the current drought conditions.
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