In Arizona, the summer of 2009 was the third-driest on record. These photos, showing the same scene in a northern Arizona forest in late summer but taken three years apart, dramatically show the effect of the drought on the forest.
The left photo was taken August 20, 2006. Although the winter of 2006 had near record-low precipitation, summer 2006 brought above-average rainfall, leading to the greenery seen here.
The right photo was taken September 6, 2009. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the statewide rainfall total for June through August 2009 was only 2.17 inches, compared to the long-term average of almost 4.5 inches. The drier conditions led to significantly more forest fires than normal across northern Arizona in the summer of 2009. When considering the long-term climate of the southwestern United States, the period from the late 1990's to the present is the driest on record and has been named the Early 21st Century Drought.
The photos were taken along a trail on Campbell Mesa, a popular hiking and mountain-biking area in the Coconino National Forest just east of Flagstaff, Arizona. .
This photograph appeared on NASA/USRA's Earth Science Picture of the Day site on October 28, 2009.