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Regional Drought Update Date
August 29, 2022
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Drought Status Update

Drought Update for the Intermountain West


DEWS Regions:
Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.

Summer monsoon improves but does not eliminate drought in the Southwest.

 

Key Points

  • An active summer monsoon pattern has improved short-term drought conditions across the Intermountain West.
  • The area in severe (D2) to exceptional (D4) drought drops to the lowest in two years.
  • Post-monsoon, fall is expected to see a return to warm and dry conditions.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Intermountain West | August 23, 2022

Current U.S. Drought Monitor map for the Intermountain West Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) region with data valid for August 23, 2022. The U.S. Drought Monitor is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country.

14.55% of the Intermountain West DEWS region is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought (D3–D4).

 

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
3%
of Arizona is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
5%
of Colorado is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
15%
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
62%
of Utah is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
2%
of Wyoming is in extreme (D3) drought

Current Drought Conditions and Outlook

U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions 

  • An active summer monsoon pattern has improved short-term, drought conditions across the Intermountain West
  • Exceptional (D4) drought persists in central Utah and northeast Colorado. 
  • 14.5% of the region is experiencing extreme (D3) drought or worse.
  • Extreme (D3) drought conditions have been in place in this region since May 2020.
  • Moderate (D1) or worse drought has been in the region since August 2009.

U.S. Drought Monitor 4-Week Change Map

U.S. Drought Monitor change map for the Intermountain West, showing how drought has improved or worsened from July 26 to August 23, 2022.  Parts of all states in the region have experienced a one to two category improvement over the 4-week period.
U.S. Drought Monitor 4-week change map showing where drought has improved or worsened from July 26–August 23, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Southwest Monsoon Season to Date

  • High minimum temperatures in July: 
    • State-wide monthly mean daily minimum temperatures were: 
      • 3.9 ºF above average for New Mexico in July, a new July record for the state.
      • 3.7 ºF above average for Colorado in July, a new July record for the state.
      • 3.1 ºF above average for Arizona in July, tying the second warmest July minimums on record for the state.
  • Rainfall totals for the Southwest have been mostly average to above average for the monsoon season so far. 

Arizona Monsoon Rainfall vs. Normal

Southeastern Arizona:


2022 Monsoon precipitation compared to normal for cities in Southeast Arizona:  Southeast Arizona: Tucson 2.36, Nogales 12.04, Safford 5.08, Sierra Vista 9.72, Wilcox 7.72, Picacho Peak 3.45, Ajo 6.39.

Northern Arizona:

2022 Monsoon precipitation compared to normal for cities in northern Arizona: Flagstaff 7.84, Kingman 2.8, Page 1.57, Prescott 5.08, Show Low 9.4, Winslow 3.2.

Central Arizona:

2022 Monsoon precipitation compared to normal for cities in central Arizona: Phoenix 1.34 , Gila Bend 1.46, Globe 6.96, Apache Junction 6.93, Tacna 1.43, Parker 2.71, Yuma 0.55.
Monsoon season to date (June 15 – August 21, 2022) precipitation totals (inches) for select sites in Arizona, compared to normal precipitation (1991–2020). Source: National Weather Service Tucson Weather Forecast Office.

60-Day Departure from Normal Precipitation

Departure from normal precipitation for the 60 days from 23 June through 21 August, 2022. Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico have all had above average precipitation for this period.
Precipitation anomaly in inches for the Intermountain West region for the 60 days from June 23–August 21, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation

Much of the region, including western Texas, western Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico and southwestern Kansas, has received less than 25% of normal precipitation over the last 30 days.
Percent of normal precipitation across the Southern Plains in the 30 days through August 18, 2022. Areas that have seen the most drought intensification over the past month have had less than 25% of normal precipitation for the month. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

September 2022

The Climate Prediction Center's monthly outlook for September shows: 

  • Increased temperatures are highly likely across most of the Intermountain West region.
  • The monthly outlook for September shows above-average precipitation is likely for southern Arizona and below-normal precipitation is likely for Wyoming, northern Utah, and northern Colorado.

September 2022 Temperature Outlook

The monthly outlook for September 2022 shows an increased probability of above-normal temperatures across the Intermountain West.
Monthly temperature outlook for September 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

September 2022 Precipitation Outlook

The monthly outlook for September 2022 shows equal chances of above or below normal precipitation for southern Arizona.
Monthly precipitation outlook for September 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

3-Month Outlook for September–November 2022

  • Seasonal forecasts for September–November show a hotter-than-normal season ahead for the Intermountain West.
  • Lower-than-normal precipitation is more likely for Utah and Colorado.

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: September–November 2022

Climate Prediction Center 3-month temperature outlook, valid for September–November 2022. Odds favor above normal temperatures for the Southern Plains with highest odds over Western Texas and eastern New Mexico.
Three-month temperature outlook for September–November 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Three-Month Precipitation Outlook: September–November 2022

Climate Prediction Center 3-month precipitation outlook, valid for September–November 2022. Odds slightly favor below normal precipitation for KS, OK and northern and western TX.
Three-month precipitation outlook for September–November 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal Drought Outlook

  • Following an active monsoon season and looking ahead into fall, the Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook shows that short-term drought will likely improve for Arizona and New Mexico but will likely persist for Utah and parts of northern Colorado and Wyoming.
  • Long-term drought will continue.

August 18–November 30 Drought Outlook

From August 18 to November 30, 2022, Current drought conditions over the Southern Plains are forecast to remain but improve.
U.S. seasonal (3-month) drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from August 18 to November 30, 2022. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

La Niña Persists and May Impact Winter Weather

  • One of the primary drivers of drought across the Southwest through winter and spring was a La Niña pattern in the Pacific.
  • The latest CPC ENSO discussion maintains a La Niña Advisory. La Niña is expected to continue, with chances for La Niña gradually decreasing from 86% in the coming season to 60% during December–February 2022–23. El Niño is unlikely. 
  • A third La Niña pattern in winter would favor another dry winter ahead for the Southern Plains and the Southwest U.S. (learn more).
  • No two La Niña patterns are the same. For more information, please check out the NOAA El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) blog

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for August 8–14, 2022

Map of the Pacific Ocean showing sea surface temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) for  8-14 August, 2022. A pool of cool water lingers in the central equatorial pacific, consistent with a la Niña pattern.
Sea surface temperature anomalies for the Pacific Ocean for August 8–14, 2022. Blue shading in the equatorial Pacific indicates cooler water temperatures consistent with a La Niña pattern. Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Probability of El Niño, La Niña, or Neutral Conditions

Bar graph showing the relative likelihood of El Niño, La Niña or neutral conditions in the Pacific. A continuation of a La Niña pattern is likely through summer with a slightly increased chance of a third La Niña pattern next winter.
ENSO forecasts showing the probability of El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions from July-August-September 2022 to March-April-May 2023. Source: Climate Prediction Center.

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Arizona

  • To date, the majority of the state has received at least 100% of monsoon precipitation (June 15 to August 26). More than half the state has received greater than 200% of monsoon precipitation.The largest outlier is the northeastern portion of Arizona, at roughly 50% of monsoon precipitation. 
  • Significant flooding has occurred in several portions of the state. The Gila River reached major flood stage in Duncan in eastern Arizona.
  • Short-term drought has greatly improved, although the state has been in some measure of short-term drought or abnormally dry conditions since August 2020. 
Percent of average precipitation for Arizona from July 27 to August 25, 2022
The percentage of average precipitation in August has been largely average to above average in most areas of the state. Source: Western Regional Climate Center.

Colorado

  • Colorado had the 5th warmest July monthly mean temperature on record and the warmest since 2012.
    • While maximum temperatures were above average, the high mean temperature was strongly driven by a record high mean daily minimum temperature for the month: 55.9 ºF. This is 3.7 ºF above the long-term average for July and the highest monthly minimum of any month on record for Colorado.
  •  Except for the northwest corner of Colorado and large pockets of eastern Colorado, most of the state has had over one inch of precipitation for August, so far, including parts of Park, Teller, Summit, and Las Animas counties that have had over four inches in August 2022. 
  • Despite near-average water year to date precipitation, April–July streamflows were well below normal again. This is, in part, because the above-normal precipitation conditions occurred in summer when precipitation ultimately contributes much less to runoff. 
 Map of Colorado with colored dots indicating the percentage of median streamflow at streamflow gauges across the state. Most gauges are at less than 70% of the median.
Observed 4-month (April–July) adjusted streamflow volume as percent of the 1991–2020 median streamflow at that location. Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

New Mexico

  • From May through mid-August, New Mexico, especially the western part of the state, has received 100% to 300% of normal rainfall for this period. At longer (6 to 12 month) timescales, long-term precipitation deficits remain. 
  • Despite ample summer precipitation, the Standardized Precipitation Index for the water year-to-date (October 1, 2021—August 21, 2022) continues to show long-term drought.
  • The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) shows a clear east/west divide in vegetative health with western New Mexico seeing a greenness response to the summer monsoon that eastern New Mexico has not.

Utah

  • A strong monsoon season extending all the way up to northern Utah has buffered short-term drought conditions for much of the state.
  • Soil moisture conditions remain favorable heading into early Fall.
  • Hydrologic, and to some degree, agricultural drought remains a significant concern, especially in southern and eastern Utah.
Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) for Utah for the past 30 days and for 2022 year to date.
Standardized Precipitation Index for the previous 30 days (left) showing the widespread coverage of above-average monsoonal precipitation and year-to-date (right) showing the long-term drought conditions persist across the state despite the ample monsoonal precipitation.
Soil moisture conditions by watershed as a percent of median for Utah.
Soil moisture percent of median for August 23, showing all but southeastern Utah has well-above-normal soil moisture conditions following the monsoon season’s precipitation. Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Wyoming

  • Precipitation:
    • Much of Wyoming has benefited from monsoonal moisture over the last 30 days.
    • While some regions, especially the northwest and northeast, have missed out on the rains, the vast majority of the state received median or greater precipitation with some areas being at the 98th or better percentile over the 30-day period.
    • A major storm in Laramie delivered as much as 2.73 inches in a 2-hour period, giving it, conservatively, a 1 in 400-year or greater return period. Wide-scale flooding was experienced in many parts of the city.
Heavy precipitation event on August 13, in Laramie, Wyoming
Heavy precipitation event, Laramie, WY, August 13, 2022.
  • Soil Moisture: 
    • Soil moisture has been worsening in the northeast. Southeastern Wyoming, especially, is of concern, where a large region has been below the 10th percentile since early June.
  • Temperatures:
    • Temperatures across the state of Wyoming have been mostly above average for the last 30 days.
    • Small pockets at 0 to 3 degrees F below average occur in the far south and southwest as well as parts of the Wind River Range.
    • Most of Wyoming was 0 to 3 degrees F above average for mean temperatures, with portions of the north at 3 to 6 degrees F above average.
  • Drought:
    • While drought has expanded in the north, the southern parts of Wyoming have seen some relief with many areas seeing improvements by one or more drought levels.
    • At 1.59%, the level of D3 (Extreme Drought) is now the lowest since July 21, 2020, which was the first week that Wyoming experienced D3 conditions since October 2018.
30-day precipitation percentiles for Wyoming, from July 24 to August 22, 2022.
30-day precipitation percentiles for Wyoming, from July 24 to August 22, 2022. Source: Wyoming State Climate Office.

For More Information

More local information is available from the following resources:

In Case You Missed It

Upcoming Events

Prepared By

Joel Lisonbee
NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

Erin Saffell
Arizona State Climatologist/Arizona State University

Peter Goble
Colorado Climate Center/Colorado State University

Jon Meyer
Utah Climate Center/Utah State University

Tony Bergantino
Water Resources Data System – Wyoming State Climate Office

Special Thanks

 

This drought status update is issued in partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the offices of the state climatologist for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The purpose of the update is to communicate a potential area of concern for drought expansion and/or development within the Intermountain West based on recent conditions and the upcoming forecast. NIDIS and its partners will issue future drought status updates as conditions evolve.