Climate Impact Report – 03/18

Quick Facts

nearly 45 mil

people are at risk as powerful storms could bring damaging winds, hail and possibly tornadoes to the Southeast on Friday

nearly 60%

of the continental United States is experiencing drought, which is the largest part since 2013

Record low

Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs on the Colorado River, fell to its lowest level on Tuesday to below 3,525 feet

Key Facts Of The Day 3/18

Storms and Flooding

  • Nearly 45 million people are at risk as powerful storms could bring damaging winds, hail and possibly tornadoes to the Southeast on Friday.

    • Severe storms are forecast Friday, with possible strong tornadoes across the central Gulf Coast states and large hail — over 2 inches — over the Ohio Valley.

    • Severe storms are ongoing Friday morning over southern Mississippi into Alabama, where a tornado watch is in effect until 10 a.m. local time.

    • The Storm Prediction Center has issued an enhanced risk (level 3 of 5) for severe storms over southeastern Mississippi and much of southern Alabama, where the potential for strong tornadoes, damaging winds and hail exists into the afternoon.

    • By Friday evening, rain will begin over much of the East Coast and continue through Saturday.

    • Additional severe storms are expected along much of the Atlantic Coast Saturday.

  • A line of thunderstorms moved through southeast Alabama Wednesday, which kicked up massive swaths of clouds of pollen.

  • The risk of major flooding in the fertile Red River Valley and continued snow cover across Minnesota and North Dakota threaten to delay planting across the region for weeks.

    • Heavy snow and saturated soils mean The Red River of the North, which serves as the border between the two states and flows on into Manitoba, including through downtown Winnipeg, will likely see the worst flooding in the U.S. this spring.

    • The prospect of crimped wheat output raises the chance that prices will continue to skyrocket and exacerbate worldwide food inflation.


  • As of Friday, there are currently 21 large active wildfires that have burned 129,168 acres across CA, FL, KS, MO, NE, NM, OK, SD, TX. As of Friday, 12,514 wildfires have burned 320,144 acres across the country.

  • As of Friday, three sweeping wildfires in the Florida Panhandle have burned more than 34,000 acres and are threatening surrounding communities amid dry and windy weather.

    • As of Friday, the Chipola Complex fire is 75% contained.

  • As of Friday,  the Eastland Complex blaze burned more than 38,000 acres and is 0% contained in Texas.

    • At least four blazes that began this week make up the complex.

    • Evacuation orders were in effect for portions of Eastland, Brown and Comanche counties.

    • About 475 homes in Gorman were evacuated.

    • In the small town of Ranger, a church and several downtown buildings burned on Thursday.

Extreme Heat

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday that drought conditions are likely to continue across more than half of the continental United States through at least June, straining water supplies and increasing the risk of wildfires.

    • Nearly 60% of the continental United States is experiencing drought, which is the largest part since 2013.

    • The few patches of the Southwest and the Southern Plains not already experiencing drought — especially in Arizona, Kansas and Texas — were expected to start.

    • In California, the majority of the state is returning to “severe” or “extreme” drought.

      • In the Central Valley, the three-year precipitation total is likely to be the lowest since modern record-keeping began in 1922.

  • Lake Powell, one of two huge reservoirs on the Colorado River, fell on Tuesday to below 3,525 feet. Its lowest level since it was created more than 50 years ago with the construction of Glen Canyon Dam.

    • It is getting closer to a threshold that would shut down hydropower production at the dam.

    • About 5 million customers in seven states — Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — buy power generated at Glen Canyon Dam.

    • The situation worries the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, one of the 50 tribal suppliers that rely on the dam for hydropower. It plans to spend $4.5 million on an alternative energy supply this year.

    • If Lake Powell drops even more, it could soon hit “deadpool” — the point at which water likely would fail to flow through the dam and onto Lake Mead.

      • Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico already are taking a combination of mandatory and voluntary cuts tied to Lake Mead’s levels.

  • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has put together a team to develop statewide strategies to deal with the extreme heat caused by climate change.

  • As rising temperatures approach with Spring weather, at least 14 states lack universal air conditioning in their prisons, including many in the South.

    • In places where the summer temperature can exceed 100 degrees, buildings keep both offenders and heat trapped inside.

    • Prisoners on medications to manage blood pressure or mental problems are especially prone to heat-related illnesses, as are those with asthma. Prisoners have also died during heatwaves.

    • High temperatures are a burden not just for prisoners but for guards and other staff, too. Recently James Le Blanc, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Corrections, testified to state lawmakers that the lack of air conditioning is a major reason that his department is short of 12,175 correctional officers, about a quarter of positions.

New Reports And Data

  • A March 2022 study found that smoke from wildfires destroys the ozone layer and if major fires become more frequent with a changing climate, more damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun will reach the ground.

  • A March 2022 study found that as oceans warm, marine cold spells are disappearing which also means that refuges and recovery periods from marine heat waves are disappearing.

  • A March 2022 study found a link between changes in food insecurity and a changing climate.


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