Q: Why do droughts occur?
A: A drought is defined by the National Weather Service as a deficiency of moisture that results in adverse impacts on people, animals or vegetation over a sizable area, says Steven Quiring of Texas A&M University. “Droughts are a creeping phenomenon,” says Quiring, a geographer who is establishing a database of soil moisture information for the U.S. Great Plains. “Droughts usually develop and spread slowly over time. This makes it difficult to identify the start of a drought and to measure and monitor drought conditions. Droughts are a direct response to a shortage of rainfall and/or an increase in evaporation and transpiration. The lack of rain can be attributed to many factors, but two main underlying reasons prevail. For rainfall to occur, there must be moisture in the atmosphere and an upward direction of that moist air. Any time one or both of these are absent, rainfall can become scarce. This combination can be aggravated by persistent high pressure areas, delivery of only dry, continental air masses, or proximity to high pressure ridges.” . . .
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