August 2023 was a sweltering month in the United States. Using data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center, the Washington Post noted that most places with weather data along the Gulf Coast had their hottest August ever.
One of the areas that recorded an all-time high temperature was Lafayette, Louisiana, at 110 degrees. Houston reached 109 degrees, and Gulfport, Mississippi, hit 107.
Millions of people in the country experienced drought in August, signaling a worrying trend.
The National Centers for Environmental Information keeps weekly drought records for the United States, and the data from August was troubling.
Here’s the breakdown of how many individuals actively experienced drought conditions in the United States, including Puerto Rico, recorded weekly for the week leading up to the recorded date:
Aug. 1: 136 million people
Aug. 8: 131 million people
Aug. 15: 120 million people
Aug. 22: 111 million people
Aug. 29: 111 million people
That the total never dipped below 111 million is hugely concerning. That means at least 35.9% of the population experienced these conditions every week during August.
Why is this concerning?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drought can lead to public health issues caused by reduced access to sanitary drinking water, lower air quality, and poor hygiene.
Notably, droughts also increase the risk of wildfires. Dry vegetation resulting from a lack of water acts like kindling, which can be easily ignited by human-caused or natural sparks. For example, cigarettes, fireworks, and sparks from machinery can lead to wildfires. Lightning strikes are also a potential cause.
What can be done to prevent droughts?
The National Drought Mitigation Center recommends water conservation and pollution prevention as two main factors to prevent the risk of drought.
Reducing the amount of water wasted in your home can be achieved by not letting the tap continue to run while brushing your teeth or by fixing leaking faucets. Letting water run while brushing teeth can waste 8 gallons per person daily, and leaks can waste 180 gallons per week in the average household, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
More labor-intensive tweaks like installing a low-flow toilet or shower head can significantly reduce water usage as well.
Using alternatives to domestic cleaning products and garden fertilizers with harmful chemicals allows for water to be recycled more easily and safely when it reaches treatment centers.
Pollution reduction, even on a small scale, can reduce the possibility of further global heating. Cutting down the harmful, planet-warming gases produced by internal combustion engine vehicles and inefficient household appliances is the next step in preventing future drought conditions.
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