Meteorological: referring to a lack of precipitation.
Agricultural: referring to a lack of moisture in the soil where crops grow.
Hydrological: referring to low levels of water in lakes and reservoirs.
Socioeconomic: referring to water shortages affecting people in society (drinking water, running water).
The most common form of drought is a lack of water vapor in the atmosphere, which is responsible for precipitation. A lack of moisture in the air causes wildfires that can damage communities and food supplies, ruin forests, or harm people and animals.
Of all the water on earth, only .003 percent is available fresh water that is not polluted, trapped in soil, or too far underground. During a drought, shared sources of water such as reservoirs, rivers and groundwater for wells are in jeopardy of running dry.
Meteorologists predict drought based on precipitation patterns, stream flow, and moisture of soil over long periods of time.
Droughts are a common feature of climate in California, Colorado, Georgia, and New York, as well as in Brazil, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and Australia.
In the United States, droughts can have major impact on agriculture, recreation and tourism, water supply, energy production, and transportation.
Nationwide losses from the U.S. drought of 1988 exceeded $40 billion, exceeding the losses caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Mississippi River floods of 1993, and the San Francisco earthquake in 1989.
The effects of drought — a lack of precipitation or water reserve for irrigation — make it difficult to support food crops. A prolonged drought could lead to famine.
In the Horn of Africa, the 1984-1985 drought led to a famine which killed 750,000 people.
Since the 1970s, the percentage of Earth's surface affected by drought has doubled. Global warming is largely blamed.
As the climate heats up, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in some locations.