Worsening Drought Envelopes Much of Western U.S.

Dangerous heat waves in much of the western U.S. could soon break all-time temperature records.

And, those temperatures are worsening drought conditions that were already plenty worrisome.

The latest drought monitor released June 10 categorizes a majority of the southwestern U.S. as experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions, and major heat this week will only worsen the outlook, reported CNN (June 14).

Here’s an in-depth update on drought conditions throughout the U.S.


At least 12 states are included in a heat-related advisory, watch or warning as triple-digit temperatures threaten to surpass previous records from California to the Northern Rockies. Excessive heat warnings are in effect as far north as Montana while the National Weather Service in Billings is forecasting highs to surpass 100 degrees and shatter all-time records set as early as 1918.

The conditions will also impact the Desert Southwest, bringing extreme heat to areas already known for excessively hot summer days.

“Excessive heat warnings/watches are in place for many areas of the Southwest and into the California Central Valley next week, with temperatures climbing well into the 110s in the lower deserts,” said the Weather Prediction Center in its extended forecast discussion.

Nevada and Arizona could also see all-time temperature records broken by the end of this week, while Phoenix will see the greatest jump up from average highs so far this month at more than 10 degrees above normal.

Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas, has reached historically low levels. Around 25 million people in several states rely on the lake for drinking water, irrigation and power. Fire danger concerns will also continue to grow into this week in areas such as eastern Nevada and western Utah, as winds ramp up and relative humidity remains in the single digits.

In Idaho, water managers are cutting off irrigation flows to farmers in Idaho’s Wood River basin and wildlife officials are scrambling to move fish to safer waters due to severe drought in the area, reported CBS News. Roughly 80% of Idaho is experiencing drought conditions, and farmers only got 27 days of water this year before the Magic Reservoir reached 4% capacity, which prompted the Big Wood Canal Company to shut off the water. The reservoir feeds about 36,000 acres of farmland. This marks the canal company’s shortest irrigation season since at least 1977.


Outside of western Kentucky, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and into northern Ohio, the rest of the Midwest region was drier than normal recently, the drought monitor shows. With the short term being quite dry and warm, drought expanded and intensified in much of the region this week.

Moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions expanded in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, where almost the entire region of each state saw degradation. In Des Moines, Iowa, newspaper reports indicate that the Raccoon River is low enough that it can currently be walked across.

Michigan also had a large expansion of severe drought and moderate drought as well as an expansion of abnormally dry conditions in the upper peninsula. Michigan farmers are concerned that recent heat is likely to deplete any moisture that’s accumulated from spotty showers, according to Brownfield Ag News. Currently, more than 90% of Michigan is in some form of drought.


In general, topsoil moisture conditions continue to drop in the contiguous U.S., according to USDA. For the week ending June 13, the percentage of farmland experiencing very short topsoil moisture increased to 13% from 12% the prior week, well above the year-ago figures of 7%. For an extensive look at the report, click here.