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United States Summer 2015 – Dramatic Visualizations

The United States summer weather is dramatic this year. The contrasting pattern is most evident in the western parts of the country, especially in California. While the State is experiencing its worst drought on record, two inter-state highway bridges were washed away by rains in July. And that same week, a bushfire in Southern California’s Cajon Pass torched 20 cars. How do we keep up with these happenings?

Well, a team of researchers at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West and EcoWest have released interactive weather graphics for the United States using EcoWest Visualizations.

The first map is called Tracking U.S. Drought Severity, and it is powered by the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly drought designations. These findings are jointly produced by analysts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This new map goes all the way back to January 2000, and packs weekly analyses for all 50 states.

The second interactive graphic is called Rain and Snow in the U.S. Since 1981. This map is based on a model developed by the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University. It shows monthly rain totals for the contiguous United States.

A look at precipitation trends will tell you that two of the strongest El Niños of recent decades led to major flooding in the winters of 1982-83 and 1997-98. Californians are hoping that El Niño will bring drought-ending rain this year too. But, it seems unlikely that one wet winter would end the West’s water deficit. Researchers are also planning to release maps tracking snowpack, dams and reservoir conditions, and wildfires in the near future.