Risk of extraordinary flooding in drought  hit American West

Risk of extraordinary flooding in drought hit American West

A portion of the American West, already badly hit by a historic drought, was put on an exceptional flood alert Friday, with nearly six inches of rain expected in places, according to the weather services.

A “significant period of precipitation” could hit the states of Arizona and New Mexico, causing extraordinary flooding, particularly in fire-ravaged areas, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. Heavy rains are particularly expected “today (Friday) and Saturday in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico,” the same source said.

23rd drought year

The western United States is experiencing its 23rd year of drought, and these cycles are being exacerbated by human-induced climate change. The risk of heavy precipitation events increases with increasing temperature. But sudden heavy rains don’t necessarily help.

“When the water falls sharply in a very short period of time, it flows,” meteorologist Chris Rasmussen of the NWS in Tucson, Arizona, told AFP. “She doesn’t have time to really engage with the soil like we’d like to see.”

Earlier in the month, intense and very infrequent rains had caused severe flooding in California’s famed and arid Death Valley.