Study links Mont.’s ‘flash drought’ to climate change

News Type: State Source: Mountain West News
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In 2017, a “flash drought” hammered parts of Montana and North Dakota. A recent report by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society says climate change made the drought some 1.5 times more likely and greatly enhanced its intensity by driving long-term reductions in soil moisture.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2017, a “flash drought” developed quickly in the Northern Great Plains region of the United States, which encompasses the states of Montana and North and South Dakota. The U.S. Drought Monitor recorded little to no drought conditions in the region on May 2 of that year, but, by August 1, abnormally high temperatures and little rainfall had caused a widespread and extreme drought.

The drought led to an unusually intense wildfire season — at one point, Montana suffered from 21 large wildfires that covered 438,000 acres. It also caused losses for cattle ranchers and farmers that were so severe some counties were declared disaster areas. All told, some $2.5 billion in damages were caused by this single extreme weather event — one of 16 “billion dollar disasters” to occur in the U.S. in 2017.