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As early summer temperatures begin to sizzle across the northern hemisphere, experts warn that possible spikes in warm weather could leave most of the western United States and Canada in danger of severe drought and susceptible to an increase in wildfires.
In its latest seasonal assessment, forecasters at the National Weather Service predict the ongoing drought that has plagued the southeast will continue into the summer, resulting in serious wildfire outbreaks, especially in states such as Georgia and Florida, where water restrictions have already been imposed in some cities.
In Atlanta, where water usage has been drastically curtailed, desperate residents have even begun to turn one another over to the authorities because of violations.
However, forecasters caution that even with rain, certain areas experiencing deficits of more than a foot will not be able to compensate for the unnaturally low rainfall. Southwest Florida is already 6.77 inches behind for the year and experiencing an unusually high number of wildfires due to dry conditions.
“We can honestly say this is one of the most severe droughts that we have dating back to when records started in the early 1900s,” said Randy Smith, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District (Associated Press).
In the west, the situation remains bleak for farmers. The drought area stretching from California into the Great Basin is not expected to experience relief, nor is Montana, Wyoming, the western Dakotas and western Nebraska.
Even the U.S.’s cooler neighbor to the north, Canada, is bracing for scorching temperatures, which could bring treacherous weather, including tornadoes and hailstorms.
Inherent in these is the danger of lightning strikes, one of the leading causes of wildfires, which in turn cause extensive property damage for Canadian residents.
According to NASA scientists, these types of long-term patterns are not expected to change—at least not for another 70 years. Recent research by NASA suggests that normal summer temperatures will be more than 10 degrees warmer by 2080—not only resulting in higher temperatures, but drier weather, said Leonard Druyan, of Columbia University and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who co-authored the study.
Using the established link between rainy and cooler weather and hot and drier weather, the study was able to forecast certain increases in temperature for cities across the United States and Canada.
“It’s going to get a lot hotter,” said Barry Lynn, now a scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who also co-authored the study. “It’s going to be a lot more dangerous for people who are not in the best of health” (CBSNews).