Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Regional Drought Update Date
September 30, 2022
Site Section
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.

Despite a Wet Summer, Pockets of Extreme (D3) to Exceptional (D4) Drought Continue

Key Points

  • Fall is expected to see a return to relatively warm and dry conditions for the season.
  • An active summer monsoon pattern has improved short-term drought conditions across the Intermountain West, but long-term drought conditions persist. 
  • The area in severe (D2) to exceptional (D4) drought is at its lowest in two years.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Intermountain West | September 27, 2022

Current U.S. Drought Monitor map for the Intermountain West Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) region with data valid for September 27, 2022. The U.S. Drought Monitor is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country.

12.34% of the Intermountain West DEWS region is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought (D3–D4), the lowest amount since August 2020.

 

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
0%
of Arizona is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
4%
of Colorado is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
7%
of New Mexico is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
56%
of Utah is in extreme (D3) to exceptional (D4) drought
4%
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 northeastern Colorado. 
  • 12.3% of the region is experiencing Extreme (D3) drought or worse, the lowest amount since August 2020.
  • 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

Parts of all states in the region have experienced a one U.S. Drought Monitor category improvement over the 4-week period from August 30 to September 27.
U.S. Drought Monitor 4-week change map showing where drought has improved or worsened from August 30–September 27, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Southwest Monsoon Summary

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 in inches compared to normal (1991-2020) for cities in Southeast Arizona: Tucson 4.63, Nogales 13.88, Safford 5.63, Sierra Vista 11.15, Wilcox 13.57, Picacho Peak 3.84, Ajo 6.82.

Northern Arizona:

2022 Monsoon precipitation in inches compared to normal (1991-2020) for cities in northern Arizona:  Flagstaff 10.63, Kingman 4.66, Page 2.28, Prescott 8.49, Show Low 10.99, Winslow 4.3.

Central Arizona:

2022 Monsoon precipitation in inches compared to normal (1991-2020) for cities in central Arizona: Phoenix 2.23 , Gila Bend 4.69, Globe 7.94, Apache Junction 8.71, Tacna 1.08, Parker 3.54, Yuma 0.59.
Monsoon season to date (June 15–September 26, 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

For the period June 28 to September 25, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico have all had above average precipitation.
Precipitation anomaly in inches for the Intermountain West region for the 90 days from June 28 through September 25, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

30-Day Percent of Normal Precipitation

Most areas that were in extreme to exceptional drought at the beginning of summer have had sufficient precipitation through summer including near average precipitation through September, to ameliorate drought conditions.
Percent of normal precipitation across the Southern Plains in the 30 days through September 26, 2022. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine.

30-Day Departure from Normal Maximum Temperature (ºF)

Over the past 30 days, areas most affected by drought have seen mean daily maximum temperatures relatively near, or within a few degrees of average.
Departure from normal maximum temperatures (ºF) across the Southern Plains in the 30 days through September 26, 2022. Source: UC Merced, Climate Engine.

Forecasts and Seasonal Outlooks

October 2022

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

  • Increased temperatures are highly likely across most of the U.S., including the Intermountain West region, with the highest odds over Colorado and eastern Utah.
  • The monthly outlook for October shows an equal chance of above- or below-average precipitation is likely for Arizona; below-normal precipitation is likely for Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

October 2022 Temperature Outlook

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

October 2022 Precipitation Outlook

The monthly outlook for October 2022 shows a greater likelihood of below-normal precipitation for the Intermountain West, except Arizona.
Monthly precipitation outlook for October 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

3-Month Outlook for October–December 2022

  • Seasonal forecasts for October–December show a warmer-than-normal season ahead for the Intermountain West.
  • Lower-than-normal precipitation is more likely for New Mexico and southern Colorado.

Three-Month Temperature Outlook: October–December 2022

For October to December 2022, odds favor above-normal temperatures across the Intermountain West.
Three-month temperature outlook for October–December 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Three-Month Precipitation Outlook: October–December 2022

For October to December 2022, odds favor below-normal precipitation for most of the Intermountain West.
Three-month precipitation outlook for October–December 2022, showing the probability (percent chance) of above-normal, below-normal, or near-normal conditions. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Seasonal Drought Outlook

  • Any improvements from the immensely beneficial summer monsoon to the Intermountain West drought have likely been realized. 
  • The Climate Prediction Center's seasonal drought outlook shows a relatively warm and dry autumn ahead.
  • The seasonal drought outlook shows that short-term drought will likely persist for Arizona and New Mexico and Utah
  • Drought is likely to develop for the currently drought-free regions of central and southern Colorado. 
  • Long-term drought will continue in the region. 

September 15–December 31 Drought Outlook

From September 15 to December 31, drought is forecast to remain or develop across most of the Intermountain West, except for parts of Arizona.
U.S. seasonal (3-month) drought outlook, predicting where drought is likely to persist, improve, develop, or be removed from September 15 to December 31, 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 the winter ahead will be a third consecutive year of a La Niña pattern in the Pacific.
  • The latest CPC El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) discussion maintains a La Niña Advisory. La Niña is favored to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2022–23, with a 91% chance in September–November, decreasing to a 54% chance in January–March 2023. 
  • No two La Niña patterns are the same. For more information, please check out the NOAA ENSO blog

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (°C) for September 19–25, 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 September 19–25, 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

 A continuation of a La Niña pattern is likely through winter.
ENSO forecasts showing the probability of El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions from August-September-October 2022 to April-May-June 2023. Source: Climate Prediction Center.

State-Based Conditions and Impacts

Arizona

  • September transitioned from the monsoon season with two events. Remnants of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Kay brought precipitation largely to the southwestern portion of the state (September 9–11), while a cutoff low-pressure system brought precipitation across the state (September 20–22).   .   
  • Nearly 81% of the state now has abnormally dry (D0) conditions or moderate drought (D1). The state no longer shows extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought.  
  • Northern and central Arizona received average to above-average precipitation for September. Largely due to a wet December and wet monsoon season, many areas of the state received average to above-average precipitation for Water Year 2022. 
From October 1 to September 25, Cochise and Apache counties received above-average precipitation, while Mohave, La Paz, and Yuma counties and areas along the Mogollon Rim were below average.
Percent of average precipitation for Water Year 2022 (October 1, 2021 to September 25, 2022). Cochise and Apache counties received above-average precipitation for Water Year 2022. Mohave, La Paz, and Yuma counties as well as areas along the Mogollon Rim were below average for Water Year 2022. Source: Western Regional Climate Center.

Colorado

  • Colorado experienced its 14th warmest August since 1895 (3rd warmest in the last decade). Precipitation was near normal.
  • Moisture was above average this summer in the High Country, but much below normal on the northeast plains. Satellite-derived vegetative health shows severe or extreme drought in the northeastern corner of the state. The area did receive 1.00–1.50 inches of rainfall on September 22 and 23. This is too late for significant improvements to current crops, but ideal for planting winter wheat for next year.
  • 28-day average streamflows across the state are varied, but have returned to near-normal levels. Colorado should start this snowpack season with higher river base flows than the previous two years. 
The Vegetation Drought Response Index, which measures vegetative stress, shows that northeastern Colorado is experiencing extreme drought conditions.
Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI) map for September 18, 2022. Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, USGS, and High Plains Regional Climate Center.

New Mexico

  • Catron and Rio Arriba Counties, New Mexico, had their wettest summer (June, July, August) on record with 11.28 inches and 10.29 inches of precipitation, respectively, over the three-month period.
  • Precipitation through summer was split, with the western half of the state experiencing much-above-average precipitation while the eastern half of the state had below-average precipitation.

90-Day Standardized Precipitation Index

From July 1 to September 28, the eastern half of New Mexico experienced SPI values from 0 to -2, while western portions of the state experienced above-normal precipitation.
90-day Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) from July 1 to September 28, 2022. Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Utah

  • Short-term drought improvements reflect the above-average monsoon season and limited evaporative demand extending into the start of Fall.
  • All but southeastern Utah soil moisture stands well-above normal for this time of year, leading to optimism for high streamflow efficiency for the 2023 spring runoff season.
  • Reservoir levels remain highly depleted across all but northern Utah watersheds, with meaningful hydrologic improvements not expected through the next year as a third La Niña presents the likelihood for warm and dry conditions this winter.
Soil moisture percent of median for Sept. 28 showing all but southeastern Utah has well-above normal soil moisture conditions.
Soil moisture percent of median for September 28, showing all but southeastern Utah has well-above normal soil moisture conditions. Source: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Reservoir levels remain highly depleted across all but northern Utah watersheds.
Left: Current reservoir fill percentage for September 29, 2022. Right: Utah’s reservoir levels for the current water year (green), the 2021 water year (blue), and median conditions over 1981–2021 (orange). Source: Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Wyoming

  • Precipitation:
    • Wyoming received its first snow of the season on September 10, with accumulations in the Wind River and Absaroka Ranges as well as the Bighorns. Snow lingered about three days, but subsequent snows have fallen since, and Wyoming is ending Water Year 2022 with amounts existent in the Wind River Range and Owl Creek Mountains.
    • Central and northeastern Wyoming received above-median precipitation for the month, while much of the south, east-central, and, to a lesser extent, parts of the northwest were below median.
  • Soil Moisture:
    • Southeastern Wyoming is still experiencing soil moisture levels in the 10th or less percentile.
    • Levels in the Powder River Basin have improved from the 10th–20th percentile to the 30th–40th.
    • Conditions in east-central Wyoming, which were at or above median at the start of the month, have deteriorated to the 10th to 30th percentile, with slightly less worsening in the southwest.
  • Temperatures:
    • Mean temperatures across the state for September were mostly 3℉–6℉ above average. Some areas of northwestern and north-central Wyoming were up to 10℉ above average.
    • Cooler minimum temperatures were offset by warmer than average maximum temperatures, especially in the western part of the state.
  • Drought:
    • While there has been some improvement in central and north-central Wyoming, conditions in the southeast have been degraded with extreme drought (D3) covering more of Laramie County and extending into Platte and Goshen Counties during the last week of the month.
Central and northeast Wyoming received above median precipitation for the month while much of the south, east-central, and, to a lesser extent, parts of the northwest were below median.
30-day precipitation percentiles for August 31–September 29, 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.