D.C. drought data: Elusive!
The District of Columbia has it tough. First, it suffers through weeks and weeks of drought-like conditions.
And then, the U.S. Drought Monitor disses the capital city.
Not actively, mind you. The U.S. Drought Monitor, after all, is an excellent clearinghouse for all kinds of up-to-date information on dry conditions across the U.S.. Its maps are high quality, its data clean and clear. In a piece yesterday, for example, TBD cited the Monitor for all kinds of analysis of regional drought conditions.
In the words of one of its stewards, it is the "official weekly drought assessment being done."
Yet a sinking feeling sets in when you poke around on the Monitor's site in search of District-based dryness. Here's how things break down: As you browse the Monitor's fabulous drought map, you'll find that the city sits astride two regions: Southeast and Northeast (no mid-Atlantic option in the world of the U.S. Drought Monitor.)
Let's look at Northeast first. On the southernmost ridge of this region are Maryland and West Virginia. Click directly on Maryland and gaze at the part of the map where the District of Columbia usually hangs out. There's something of a triangular cutout there. No D.C.
Now go to the Southeast region and zoom in on Virginia. Again, no D.C. to be found. The District has long struggled to achieve meaningful representation in Congress, but can't it get meaningful representation on the U.S. Drought Monitor?
When asked about this omission, the drought people opt for the retrocession approach: "You are correct that the District of Columbia is not represented by itself. This area is included/absorbed in the Maryland/Virginia depiction," writes Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Mitigation Center partners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and USDA to produce the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The practical implication here is that if you want to see what the drought conditions are in the District, the U.S. Drought Monitor may well disappoint you. Try to eyeball the national map, and you may have some luck divining conditions in D.C.
All's not lost, though. Occasionally the folks at the U.S. Drought Monitor receive a "Potomac Basin" update on drought conditions for our region. And, hey, one such update recently came out.
The update shows "D0" conditions for the entire District, a classification that means "abnormally dry." That's pretty severe, though not as severe as a few counties in West Virginia.
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