If you are considering a move to a growing number of regions, be prepared to live a lifestyle heavily influenced by dry weather conditions.
Droughts are no longer passing events that wring out the ecosystem and dry up water supplies somewhere else. They are spreading further, they linger longer and that increases the chance one will impact your decision about where to buy a home. The southeast drought that has created water turf wars in parts of Alabama, Georgia and Florida has captured the headlines in recent weeks, because water supplies are at risk.
However, a growing number of regions are also experiencing or expecting prolonged dry spells.
Rather than rare or random, drought is a normal, but temporary aberration, unlike aridity -- a permanent condition of some climatic regions, such as deserts.
Drought comes and it goes as a result of a precipitation deficiency over an extended period of time, typically a season or more, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC).
However, scientists say, climate change can impact both the expanse of arid regions and the frequency, duration and depth of drought.
What areas are most at risk for the scorched earth effects of drought?
According to Bert Sperling's BestPlaces.net, they are Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA; San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA; Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, TN; Chattanooga, TN-GA; Birmingham-Hoover, AL; Greenville, SC and Knoxville, TN.
They've been ranked "America's Drought-Riskiest Cities," based on the Sperling Drought Indices available on a new website DroughtScore.com.
The site points to the shrinking Great Lakes, 4.4 million residents in the southeast with a dwindling water supply and fires in Southern California as drought generated conditions impacting lifestyles.
A score of 100 represents the climatic normal for a given area. Values greater than 100 represent drier conditions, and values less than 100 indicate wetter conditions.
The drought riskiest locales have scores of 120 or higher. The lowest, where wet conditions could also cause trouble, have scores at about 77 or lower. Texas is most at risk for getting soaked, while California regions are most likely to dry up.
At DroughtScore.com, visitors can determine the drought score and make comparisons for every city, town and ZIP code in the U.S. That's more than 50,000 locations.
Along with the single drought score, which measures the current drought conditions in an area, DroughtScore.com also graphs the scores for the last 13 months and compares the local area to state and national averages.
Why do we need so much information on a weather condition that's largely been a passing event impacting only select regions?
Failing to account for drought conditions could be just as potentially disastrous in choosing a place to live as it is to ignore the existence of quake faults, storm regions and those prone to flooding.
Sperling's DroughtScore.com explains it best.
"In the past, we have been able to create civilization wherever we wished; in the rugged mountains or in the scorching desert. Engineering miracles provided cheap power and abundant water to transform the most inhospitable areas. Now we may find that our complete victory over nature has been only temporary, and climate and geography once more have a voice regarding which places are livable.
Even if the winter rains and snows bring some relief, water availability is expected to be an increasingly important issue to find throughout the 21st century."