WE HAD A MESSAGE THAT CAME LOUD AND CLEAR FROM DECISION-MAKERS AND POLICY-MAKERS: WE JUST WANT ONE MAP WITH ONE NUMBER ON IT.
– Mark Svoboda, the National Drought Mitigation Center

The federal government’s weekly map of drought severity is an important tool to track the crisis, and an unexpectedly hands-on exercise.   They’ve become a familiar staple of California’s four-year drought: the colorful drought severity maps, their blotches of red and orange creeping across the landscape to tell us just how bad the drought has become in different regions.  What most people don’t realize is that those maps are not generated by software models and computer programs churning away in an air-conditioned server farm on a desert plateau somewhere. The maps are created by hand…

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