Utah has seemed to be a tinderbox lately with several fires threatening homes and causing evacuations of late. Fortunately, the people fighting the fires have done a phenomenal job protecting homes and containing the fires. Fireworks have been curtailed and a lot of firearm activity on public land has been temporarily prohibited. All of that, taken with the fires in other states (especially Colorado), got us wondering how bad the drought really is.
We grabbed data from both NOAA and the USDA that measures how much moisture is in the topsoil (the upper six inches of soil) throughout the various states in the US. The data is measured as being wetter than normal all the way to “short” or “very short” of moisture. We stuck with the latter two categories and compared the percentage of soil short of moisture with the 10-year mean of such readings, creating a map showing the percentage over or under the mean for each state.
You can see the visualization here: US Drought in 2012