So here's a new perspective on the plenty-devastating, still-lingering drought that left 60% of the nation in a state of emergency. Above, watch as 10 years of groundwater data flicker by; then get a sense for how bad it really was. The deeper the red, the emptier the region's groundwater stores—a better measurement for drought than surface water, since it's not as easily replenished—as compared to the average registered amount between 1948 and 2009.
Here are the maps from this year, in detail.
And NASA explains:
The maps above combine data from the twin satellites of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) with other satellite and ground-based measurements to model the relative amount of water stored near the surface and underground as of September 17, 2012. The top map shows moisture content in the top 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) of surface soil; the middle map depicts moisture in the “root zone,” or the top meter (39 inches) of soil; and the third map shows groundwater in aquifers.That's nasty stuff. And get ready for these conditions to become increasingly normal as climate change rolls on. This was the summer, after all, that climate scientists described as "a window into what global warming really looks like."