California Drought Closes In on Record, Gro Drought Index Shows

27 August 2021

Every county in California is experiencing drought conditions, and 29% of the counties are in exceptional drought, adding to the state’s challenge as it continues to battle raging wildfires. 

Gro’s Drought Index (GDI) reading for the state, at 3.77, indicating “severe” drought, is closing in on the record high of 3.83 set in 2014, which is considered the worst drought in 1,200 years. The Dixie Fire, which has set more than half a million acres ablaze in Northern California, is centered in Tehama and Butte counties, where GDI readings are, respectively, 4.85 and 4.72, indicating “exceptional” drought, the worst category.  

California is on course to record its worst wildfire season ever in terms of acres burned. Like many parts of the West, the state has been gripped by drought and scorched by heat waves that have left vegetation dry and flammable, creating ideal wildfire conditions—as shown in this display from the Gro Portal of the Gro Drought Index and Potential Evapotranspiration for Western states.  

The GDI, which shows the location and intensity of drought globally on a daily basis, is based on a Gro machine-learning model that uses a host of environmental and climate signals. The GDI is calibrated to the US Drought Monitor (USDM), the most recognized and widely used index, and then scaled to automatically provide readings globally on a near-real-time basis. It measures drought severity on a scale from "0" or no drought to "5" or exceptional drought.  

Having a single global measure of drought that is defined and measured on a daily basis is critical for efficiently pricing and managing risk. And since wildfires this summer aren’t just a US phenomenon, the GDI can also be used to monitor dry conditions and high temperatures in other places hit by devastating wildfires, including Greece, Turkey, and Italy

Gro users also can use the Gro Navigator for Agriculture app to monitor the impact that drought, soil moisture, vegetative health, and other conditions are having on specific crops, as shown in this Gro Navigator display focused on California vegetables.

This insight was powered by the Gro platform, which enables better and faster decisions about factors affecting the entire global agricultural ecosystem. Gro organizes over 40,000 datasets from sources around the world into a unified ontology, which allows users to derive valuable insights such as this one. You can explore the data available on Gro with a free account, or please get in touch if you would like to learn more about a specific crop, region, or business issue.

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